Thursday, April 01, 2010

Revision Made Easy!

I'm in the process of revising my 4th manuscript and I thought I'd share my easy, time saving tips for getting the job done. If you follow these very simple instructions, you will churn out beautifully revised manuscripts in record time. In fact, this method should also be used for the synopsis you will need to revise as well.

So here are Christine's Tips for Easy Revisions

1) Let your first draft sit on the shelf for at least two weeks
2) Send your first draft out to your CP
3) Play for the two weeks you are "off"
4) Read through your MS and be pleasantly surprised that the MS is near perfection
5) Do a quick hunt and search through the document for some pesky "echo words"
6) Double check your spacing and margins
7) Do a quick grammar check just to make sure you haven't missed anything
8) Layer in a few fun words just to up the word count
9) Quickly glance over your Synopsis and realize it's also near perfection
10) Print out the new document and start querying away.


Yeah, like at what point did you all go, is Christine nuts? Or brilliant? Or none of the above?

Okay, parts of the revision process are true. Numbers 1-3 are about right for this current revision. However, after I wrote the first draft of this MS, I actually let it sit for 6 months.

Note: Do not do that to yourself. It is a BIG mistake. Trust me.
Note: This is the 4th major revision I'm doing on the current WIP.

When I sat down to work on this MS again, I did not JUMP into the waters. Why? I had just received major feedback from a published author at a critique session and there was problem with the TONE of the book. I had two tones equaling two stories equaling a HUGE NIGHTMARE to fix. AGAIN.

The truth is the idea of going back into this mangled mess and cutting out new scenes I'd just finished writing and adjusting the tone levels to meet my own desired direction as a writer is pretty much like asking myself to poke a fork into my eyeball.

Note: I'm not into inflicting pain on myself, internally or externally.
Note: I have learned many techniques to avoid facing pain.
Note: I am going to share these soul saving techniques with you.

Here's what I've been doing during my first official week back to writing.

1) I've cleaned my office, made new files and tossed tons of old MS pages (some were older than my Darling Daughter). You can read all about my de-cluttering adventures in my blog.

2) I've cleaned out the email inbox and made new calendars.

3) I sat down, finally, and read through the entire MS.
4) I emailed my wonderful CP and apologized for transposing some of my scenes in Scrivener before compiling the document.
5) I also apologized for my horrendous grammar mistakes and promised never to do it again (okay, I lied--I will do it again--it's story revision, it's not time for copy edits).
6) I brainstormed a bit with my fabulous CP about the ending and certain bits that are problematic due to tone changes and cutting out a history for the hero.
7) I promised myself I would hit it hard -- as soon as I judged my contest entries for another RWA writing chapter and after I read through my CP's critique notes.
8) I proceeded to delay doing the two things that would clear the decks for me to get back to writing by signing up for Twitter and going for a long -- super long-- walk today.
9) I looked at my notebook for the current MS and groaned.
10) I decided my duties to Southern Magic's amazing blog were more important and must take precedence over the two things I need to do to clear the deck.

Note: I am a disciplined person. I've become incredibly adept at lofty procrastination methods.
Note: I'm stretching out this blog post just to avoid doing item number 7 on my list.

Okay, the point is, I know I have to revise. All writers know they have to revise. It's just not easy to wrap one's brain around going back into a WIP and fight for the story to emerge. This isn't line editing or  hunting for echoing words. This is ripping out the guts, opening arteries and cutting mercilessly while adding new layers and depth to what will remain. THIS IS HARD WORK.

I will do it. But I long for the innocence of my first days as a writer. Back in 2004 when I sent my first book off to my friends, I thought revision WAS line editing (you can stop laughing now). I didn't have an outline for the book I wrote, I just wrote it. Or maybe it wrote itself. And I didn't have an RWA membership (thanks to the wonderful editor at Silhouette Desire for pointing me to RWA in his rejection letter), I didn't know about word counts, I looked it all up on line--and I was requested!! A full. Thankfully, as you can see by the above sentence, SD did reject that first MS.

But oh, I was still so innocent. I believed if I just figured out POV and had a clear black moment along with a detailed outline, well, I'd be on my way. Nope, and I didn't really revise that second book either. I did join RWA, started taking classes, CPs found me (thank God), joined local chapters, took online courses, read more books about writing. MY CPs forced me to revise my third MS and I'm glad they did. However, the more I have learned about writing, the LONGER IT TAKES ME TO WRITE A BOOK -- let alone be REQUESTED.

Talk about ironic. When I knew absolutely NOTHING, I got just as far as when I finally learned something about the craft of writing. But I'd never want to see that first book in print--LOVE BUILDS A CHANCE was proof that I could write an entire book, but it's not shelf worthy (trust me, I know).

Note: There is an excellent article in RWR's April edition about called WRITING INTO THE MIST that covers the way we intuitively write.
Note: I know my process now--it's not easy for me to admit it.


I am a messy writer who needs boundaries.  I need an outline, of sorts, and I need to know where I am going for the first draft, but then I just spill it out onto the pages. Then I go in, find the core of the story, listen to feedback and I carve away the first round of junk writing and off I go again. I gallop through my revision with the same gusto and churn out another draft. Then I send it out into the world and start getting feedback on the first pages (you know, that partial thing with the synopsis?). And ultimately, much to my chagrin, problems are pointed out to me. Back I go into the MS and so it goes.

Now I am on the 4th round of revisions. I feel the story emerging. Again. I am willing to do the work. I will do the work--in fact--after blatantly using this blog to procrastinate just a bit more, I am eager to start the work. I know once I get started, I will get that rush again. The thrill of solving the problem and joy of creating will take over and all will be well in my writing world.

How do you revise?

Note: I actually read through this blog and edited it lightly before posting--I believe I officially have earned the Queen of Procrastination Crown for the day.


Heather said...

This couldn't have come at a better time! I'm playing hookie from work today so I can work on revisions. I had to leave the house, and have nestled into a cubicle at the library to avoid distractions. I take your post as a sign from the cyber-universe that I need to get back to working on the revisions and quit surfing the net!


P.S. Great post!!!!

KarenG said...

Christine, so glad I jumped over here from your blog today. It was fun to get this history of you as a writer. Your system sounds great. I thought I had a system until this wip. Now it's all gone to seed. Maybe what I need to do is that closet and file clearing up?

Christine said...

Hi Heather: I'm glad I got you back in the saddle with your revisions. I'm taking a break from my judging (onto the second entry) to play on the blog, but then it's back into the groove for me, too.

Good luck with those revisions!

Christine said...

KarenG: almost every writer I know develops a different way of doing things with each book. I think it's because we're searching for a way to get out of revising!

Go ahead, de-clutter your closet! And file. Maybe your right brain will kick in and you'll get a spark. I already had one today about a tricky problem with the current MS. I got while I was blow drying my hair. Sheesh. Wonder how many showers I'll have to take to get this revision done?

Carla Swafford said...

You had me going there for a minute, Christine. I was going to ask for some of those pills you're taking. LOL!

Revisions for me is never ending. Critique partners, beta readers, reading outloud, I do them all and I'm never satisfied.

Jeanie said...

How many times do I revise? Forever and ever, amen. I am the Queen of the Tweakers. Never satisfied.

Christine said...

Carla: I know what you mean--so many readers and then I still find problems. Oh, my goodness it just never ends. But at some point, I guess we just have to move on. Hard to do. Keep writing and going for your dreams--and keep battling the WIPs into shape!

Christine said...

Jeanie: I once asked when the book would be finished. And my friend said, "When it is on the shelf."

I tweak and tweak and tweak. I wonder if, when that call comes, I will be happy even when it gets on the shelf!

Cari Hislop said...

This last week I took the whole week off from writing (or non-writing). I've been banging my head against several brick walls for months. You know how it have a well written scene that seems perfect only it won't budge so one keeps trying to go forward only the story digs its heels in and goes nowhere because something is wrong. For a whole week I didn't open a single story file. I let myself do other fun stuff and one night I started thinking about my biggest brick wall. I decided to agree to delete if I had I mentally worked my way backwards to find what was keeping me from moving forward and I found it. This morning I finished rewriting and I know its right. Hurrah! I can now write the next chapter, but I had to delete what I thought was a perfect proposal.

Sometimes its not procrastinating to put the story aside. Sometimes we get so focused on what we think is supposed to happen that we become deaf to our characters.

If I were you, I'd set the WIP you've reworked 4 times aside and start something new. It could be that the only way you'll write the right version of that story is as the writer you'll be in a year or two.

Stories are like eggs, some stories take longer to incubate before hatching. My last story took six months. The story I worked on this morning has been over two years in the writing. It's close to the end and I want it to hatch and fly away, but clearly the story isn't ready and if I force it to hatch too early it'll kill it.

My first book is still incubating after three versions and ten or so years, but once I'm the writer it needs me to be, it's going to be awesome. My readers will never know how many brick walls I had to eat to create a masterpiece.

Christine said...

Hi Cari: I like your philosophy and will follow it as soon as I do this current 4th revision. I'm not quite ready to give up on my characters, and they are talking to me despite the fact that I am eliminating a key ingredient to the story. In fact, that ended up being the easiest thing to fix. I'm also going to Nationals so I need this story in reasonable shape so I can pitch it.

I'm glad you had your "aha" moment with your story! I know how it feels to cut precious words. But if you cut them, you'll make room for the "right" words. I save all my cut stuff and I'm always surprised by how much I go back to farm them. Sometimes I reuse first draft words in fourth draft revisions LOL.

Good luck with all the hard work and writing!!

M.V.Freeman said...

You can do this.

You know how I revise--I whine, curse, pull out my hair, and write very slowly.

I always admire how you can take apart your MS, and tackle it.

Speaking of, back to my little bit of stress. :-)

Christine said...

Hi Mary: whoever said writing was easy A) never wrote a book and B) never ripped the guts out of the book.

You'll get it done. And your goals are attainable. Woot!

Now back to reality for me as well.

prashant said...

It was fun to get this history of you as a writer.
home jobs india