Friday, February 25, 2011

My love/hate relationship with revisions

So…I promised a post on revision…

It’s interesting how perspectives can change, don’t you think? I know I’ve commented several times on the blog about my love of revisions. I really do love the revising process. Sending my manuscripts out to my agent, crit partner and editor is always a little scary, but what I know is, they’re going to look at it with fresh eyes, see the things that aren’t working, and help me to make my manuscript into the book I thought I wrote. It’s thrilling and terrifying all at the same time.

But, The Novel Formerly Known as Hellbent has been another story. As I mentioned Wednesday, wrapping up a series isn’t easy. You have to fit all of those little sub-plots back into your story and tie it all up with a bow before you type The End, and sometimes it looks like this.

This is by far the toughest revision I’ve ever done, but here’s how I’m trying to approach it:

1. Tackle the big stuff.
I first go through and make all the big changes. If my feedback is that a plot point isn’t ringing true, I pull that section of my manuscript out into a separate document and have at it. I rip and tear until I’ve whipped it into submission. Likewise, if a character isn’t working, I pull his/her major sections out and revise away. Once I’ve made the revisions, I can figure out where the section fits back into the manuscript and revise around it, making sure all those puzzle pieces still fit together. If not, I revise some more.

2. Tackle the small stuff.
Once I have all the major issues worked out, then I can work on the smaller things, such as character development or point clarification. It makes sense to do these last, because if I do these things first, I’m likely to lose some of it in the major revisions. This is when you can layer in emotion or sharpen dialog to flesh out a character or clarify an event. These are easier, because they seldom entail any major rewriting.

3. Clean up/Polish
All the hard work is done, but, just like with any big construction project, now I've got scraps laying all over the place. I want to make sure the story is still consistent. I may have pulled my chainsaw out in step one, so I need to make sure when I put all those hacked up pieces back together into a whole, everything is in order and still flows. For example, a character can’t reference something that hasn’t happened yet.

So, yes. I have my chainsaw out for TNFKH. I am not enjoying these revisions as much as I may have hoped because getting all those pieces crammed into this puzzle in the first place was a trick, and if I pull one out, the whole thing will explode in my face. Wish me luck.


  1. Good luck, although I said previously I have complete faith in you and it will be worth it in the end!! x

  2. Am reading PERSONAL DEMONS and enjoying it.

    Seems like your revision process works!

  3. Editing is tough. It seems in every revision I found something I overlooked in the last revision. ugh

    But it is always well-worth the time and having a great but tough crit partner really helps

  4. Definitely, good luck! I feel exactly the same way about revisions as you do: love the result, but grit my teeth when I'm in the middle of them. Sometimes I tackle the little things, first, though, just to get my feet wet. The big stuff can be so scary!

  5. Like you, I normally love revisions, but Luc and I would make good partners right now, because I am in revision hell. I've removed an entire character's point of view, have changed the point of view from one of the remaining characters to another in about half of the scenes. And after the first major revision, the consensus amongst my beta readers was the opening chapters were WORSE.


    I don't actually think this is the flu that I have. I think this book is killing me.

  6. I always have to start with the little stuff first. That way I can cross off all the things I've accomplished and then tackle the big stuff.

    On a side note, I recently was a panel listening to two literary agents talk about writing, and someone in the audience announced he didn't believe in revisions, that he wanted an agent and ultimately an editor who wouldn't actually edit him. O_o