Wednesday, March 31, 2010

S.M.M. (Save My Manuscript)

It’s been a week now since I finished Bob’s first draft. A whole week. And from a writing perspective, it’s been an awful interesting one.

Have I mentioned my love-hate relationship with revision? Okay, so maybe it’s just a hate relationship. But I didn’t want it to be this time. I wanted to enjoy the process, and not be so concerned about finishing the stupid thing. So I decided to come up with a new method.

Perhaps I should explain how I’ve handled revision in the past. It’s pretty simple: Write the book. Read through the book. Change the things that don’t flow well or make sense. Read through it again, change it again, and on and on, until you can’t come up with anything else to change.

I don’t like this method for a few reasons. First, it doesn’t allow for a very thoughtful approach to editing--you just dive right in, with no goggles, no wetsuit, and change whatever you feel like changing. Second, it relies too heavily on the first draft. Since you don’t plan for any major rewrites, you often don’t do any major rewrites, and the first draft’s overall structure remains largely intact.

This time, I’ve been trying to take a more thoughtful, less first-draft-oriented approach. I came up with a revision outline. I decided to focus on the biggest issue first, and then the next biggest, and then the next, until I get down to line editing the prose. But this hasn’t been working, either. I’m getting too bogged down in the minutiae when I’m supposed to be dealing with the bigger stuff. And I’m making myself batty. (Just ask my son and husband.)

So I’m asking for your help. I’d love to hear a bit about how you handle revision. How do you break down/build up your first drafts? And what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received on the topic?

Please, enlighten me.


Charity Bradford said...

Unfortunately, that sounds like how I revise. If you get any tips, be sure to share them with all of us. ;)

Nicole said...

I'm still working on my WIP so I haven't revised yet but I have written shorter pieces of work and usually I print out what I've written and do an in-depth edit where I basically mark up everything in red pen. But I'm still looking for good advice on how to revise too. Good luck!

Kara said...

I do revisions on a priority chart of issues similar to your outline. I start with higher order things like the flow of scenes and fleshing out characters and end with the least important stuff, like grammar and spelling.

Kelly Bryson said...

Hey Krista- I'm ready to revise with a hammer on my keyboard, so maybe you should be selective in what advice you take;)

I am a mess. I have two betas who have read a few chapters thus far, and then we all agreed that we needed some time to fix things, so we stopped. I've got edits from my online writer's workshop, where I try to post a chapter every week or three. I've got my own impressions, my husband's crits of the first 50 pages, the changes to make after learning some tidbit in a first paragragh contest.

Basically, we're in the same boat, except I haven't gotten it together enough to finish an outline;) Starting an outline did help me to focus my characters on their goals, but I got so excited about that that I quit working on the outline. Whatever. If I get frustrated I take a day off. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Geez, come on people. There has to be a magic pill or elixir we can take that will make all the edits perfectly clear.

Someone has to have a link to a website or something.


sigh. Sorry Krista, I got nothin' I think the hammer to the keyboard might be the editing "advice" I'll be following in the future.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Ugh. Same boat. Sorry, no suggestions. My "editing plan" seems to be: mess with it until you're sick of it; send it off to agents; wait for responses; if you get mostly rejections keep messing with it; finally give up and work on something new. :)

Obviously, not ideal. Pretty depressing, too. But see, after the fourth or fifth round of it, that "something new" might be pretty good, you know?

Myrna Foster said...

What if . . .

What if instead of waiting until our ms are all nice and pretty, we trade them while they're still ugly and give each other feedback on the big issues?

For instance, I know my story is too busy. If I cut out the stuff that isn't important, I could develop the stuff that is. But I don't know what to cut. And I know that I need more description, but too much description is boring. Where should I add it?

There isn't much point in polishing my sentences until they shine, if I'm going to cut them later. But maybe I'm being lazy.

What do you think?

Charity Bradford said...

Myrna, DITTO! I feel the same way. I've had several people read and then I revise based on their questions, but they are all my friends. What if they didn't point out every useless paragraph that has nothing to do with anything?

I have the same problem with descriptions as well. Just last night I thought I should sit down and plan a travel guide for my world (I read it on a blog somewhere this week). I realized last night that the planet is almost a character for the story line, but I barely describe her or make her presence FELT.

@rissawrites, if you find that magic pill, I want some!

Kayeleen said...

My editing process starts with about three weeks away from the manuscript. Then, when I'm a little bit distant from the thing, I write out in an outline the parts that I remember as being important plot points. If I have had any feedback about what does or doesn't work from people who've read it, I take that under consideration and then see if there are other ways to get where I want it to go.

With my current round of edits, I have rearrange the order of things and added depth to the story because I change some of the key elements with the previous brainstorming. It also helps to have someone to bounce ideas off of.

Hope you have a good round of edits. I hate revising, too.

Krista V. said...

Oh, you guys are gems. GEMS. If nothing else, it's nice to know that I'm not alone, that I'm not just some moron who can't figure it out.

Charity, sounds like we're just two dragon eggs in a nest:)

Nicole, are you planning to print out your entire novel and edit it that way? Something to consider...

Kara, that sounds like a pretty good method to me. Unfortunately, I'm still in the fix-everything-at-once mode, so I'm having a hard time focusing.

Kelly, your hammer approach made me laugh out loud:)

Rissa, I'm still waiting for that magical link, too:)

Amy, I fear I've had the same approach with the two books I've queried. I just want this one to be...PERFECT first...ya know?

Myrna, VERY interesting proposition. I already know there's one fairly major plot point I want to change, but after that? Hmm...

(And I need to add more description, too, since I include a few settings that don't actually exist in the real world. Honey Bear had a fantabulous idea last night: "Why don't you read back through the first HARRY POTTER, when he goes to Diagon Alley for the first time? Seems like that would be a first-rate example of how to get the character interacting with the description of a foreign environment..." And THAT'S why I married him:) )

Kayeleen, it sounds like you've got a pretty good handle on your edits. I hope I can make it there, too.

Kerri said...

Hi, I'm new here - found you via your agent interviews and love your blog!

I've always hated revising too, for the reasons you describe. But I just completed one last (yeah, right) revision on my manuscript that felt less like torture. Maybe this is something other people do all the time, I don't know, but no one mentioned it yet so I wanted to. This time around I tricked myself into approaching the book as a reader rather than the writer. I switched the font and font size in Word so it looked more like a "real book" and I pretended I was a stranger reading this thing for the first time. And I tried to stay in that mindset as much as possible and notice my reactions to things (losing patience with the characters, wanting the pace to pick up or slow down, overdone writing, whatever).

Somehow the approach liberated me to make changes I never had the guts, or vision, to before. I eliminated an entire character and his subplot because I could see it just didn't serve the greater story. I wrote a brand new ending because my original one was too quiet, like a slow fizzle. I brought back an earlier character to play a role at the end because as a reader I was like, Hey, whatever happened to that person?

I really think it's the best and meatiest revision I've done. We'll see what the agents say on this go-round.

Krista V. said...

Welcome, Kerri! It sounds like you've had some real breakthroughs with your manuscript. That's fantastic. And I like your idea of reading as a reader rather than the writer.

Oh, and Myrna, whenever you're ready for a beta, I'm ready to be a reader - you don't have to wait for mine.

Myrna Foster said...

Thanks, Krista. I'm getting there (I hope).