Saturday, August 25, 2012

Writing is Revising (Except When It's Not)


So, we thought we’d give you our take on revising today. Only, revising is hard to talk about. There are websites and blogs that’ll tell you that there’s only one way to revise/draft/write, and personally, those irritate the fudgesicles out of me. Writing is different for everyone, so I can’t tell you how to revise. I can’t tell you what will work for you.

That said, I’ve just spent the majority of the last year revising. I can tell you what worked for me and what didn’t. The first draft of my novel on subs, WILDFLOWER, was started when I was fourteen. I began querying it on the day before I turned fifteen. And it went out on subs in the middle of this past July. There are some serious time lapses between those three dates. Guess what I was doing. Your choices are:

a)      Procrastinating
b)      Revising
c)      Forgetting to do homework
d)     All of the above

If you guessed answer D, you are one smarticle particle. Have a cookie.

I tried using index cards. I tried using sticky notes. I tried making notes on my mirror with Expo markers. I tried typing out my ideas. I tried writing longhand. I tried eating ice cream. I tried lying on the floor and shooting Nerf guns at the ceiling. I tried Sharpie’ing trash cans. And then I figured out that there were really only three things I needed to revise.

1. Admit that my book wasn’t perfect. Consciously, I knew this. But there was always that one scene that I knew was rather pointless, but didn’t want to cut because it was cute. Or that one character I know wasn’t quite developed, but managed to give myself an excuse as to why. Or that one plot hole that’s small enough that most people won’t notice, but would cause a lot of trouble to patch up. Basically, I had to stop being lazy; I knew that the book had problems, but that didn’t mean anything if I wasn’t willing to face them.
2. A critique partner. I can’t stress this enough. The first eight or so revision of my novel were done without a single second opinion. Your novel can only grow to a certain point if you are the only one looking over it. A critique partner is an invaluable resource, something I learned the hard way.
3. Time to think. Not about the way Jill Johnson’s hair looked like today. Not about what to wear to that party this weekend. Not about Boy X’s cute freckle. About your book. About what it’s problems are. About the notes your critique partners have sent you. About which suggestions are right on the spot, and which ones don’t align with your vision of your book. A lot of people suggest physical activity at this point, something I’ve never found to help (mostly because I would tell myself to think through a plot knot, and then get on the tennis courts and only think about how to hit aces. And then, of course, fail at both of my intentions). But maybe it’ll work for you. Maybe it won’t. Experiment a bit until you figure out what works for you, and then stick with it.

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