Friday, April 29, 2011

Catharsis and Enlightenment

Last night, I had a bit of a meltdown. I’m sure you can imagine what it sounded like: “Aw, my writing stinks! I’m a horrible writer and a horrible person! I’m ruining Bob, absolutely ruining him!”

Now, in my defense, I was tired, and I’m generally not my best when I’m putting together a revision outline. Honey Bear wisely told me to go to bed, and I did. And this morning, I had an epiphany: I’ve been doing this revision-outline thing all wrong.

In the past, I’ve organized my revision outlines by chapter. I’ve made a list of all the changes I want to make within each chapter and added a short list of general changes to the top of the outline. Then I’ve picked someplace to start (which is rarely the beginning), fixed that problem, and moved on to another item in my list (which is rarely the next one).

There’s no method to my madness--I just change whatever I feel like changing whenever I feel like changing it. I try to start with the biggest problems first and work through to the smallest ones, but that’s sometimes easier said than done. Last night, for example, as I was going back through my outline, I was getting bogged down in the little chapter-by-chapter issues and forgetting the big picture.

To put it another way (and to use yet another cliché), I was getting lost in the trees and losing sight of the forest.

The feedback our betas give us is invaluable, but if we want to make good use of it, we have to learn how to separate major issues from minor ones. I’m still relatively new to this whole beta-reader thing (Bob is the first manuscript I’ve written that anyone but Honey Bear and my mother has read), so I’m definitely still developing this skill myself. Last night was just one more lesson in the all-inclusive education Bob has been giving me.

All of this has been a really long way to say I’m going to try organizing my revision outlines by topic instead of by chapter. That way, I’ll be able to see at a glance the major issues I want to tackle. Then I’ll add bullet points under each of those big issues to flesh out the specific changes I plan to make. Hopefully, this will lead to less meltdowns.

Or maybe not:)

P.S. For more information about the revision process, check out Kayeleen Hamblin’s awesome post, “Pulling the Weeds.” Whether you’re a writer or a gardener (or both), you’ll appreciate her analogy.

P.P.S. Some of you may be wondering about my “Interview with an Agent” series. I’m still working on it, so no worries, but this spring has been tricky. Lots of agents are agreeing to do the interview, but they’re taking a bit longer to get back to me than they have in the past. This probably means they’re busy signing clients and making awesome deals, but I’ll keep plugging away!


Janet Johnson said...

I think we all have those moments. So really, it's good to get it out, have our cry, and then move forward.

Best of luck with Bob! :)

Ben Spendlove said...

I hate to cause anyone stress, but I don't think there's a way to avoid it without simply saying "Oh, it's perfect!" I'm waiting for someone to say that to me. Actually, I'd never believe it.

Mindy McGinnis said...

I've read in many places that the author who thinks their work is awesome, is usually dead wrong. Those of us who doubt ourselves are the ones that will work harder to make it better!
And (the bad news) it never ends - even now that I'm agented I still read things and think - God! She must've been in a great mood when she signed me!

Pam Harris said...

Oh yes, I definitely have my emotional breakdown moments. I think it's always good to take a step back in those times, and then come back a little later with hopefully a new perspective. :)

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

That is a great plan for tackling revisions, Krista. I hope it goes really well for you. Isn't it amazing that, on the writing-life roller coaster, the distance between ups and downs is so small? You can feel on top of the world about your writing one day and down in the dumps the next. This has to be one of the most emotionally jarring occupations in the world.

Hang in there. :) You're great.


Read my books; lose ten pounds! said...

your blog title is my life!

Krista V. said...

Janet, glad to know I'm not the only one:)

Yeah, Ben, I wouldn't believe them, either. And all good beta readers generate some level of anxiety in the writers whose manuscripts they read, so I'd say you were just doing your job:)

Such a good point, Mindy. We have to learn how to deal with things like this now, because like you said, they don't go away.

Exactly, Pam. When you start feeling like the worst writer in the world, it's time to go to bed.

"Isn't it amazing that, on the writing-life roller coaster, the distance between ups and downs is so small?" Exactly, Amy!

It's my life, too, Read:)

erica and christy said...

Thanks for the link, Krista. Also, if you think about it, toddlers are some of the happiest people around and they tantrum almost daily, so it must be good for you. :)

Keep plugging away, you're SO CLOSE!

Kristine Asselin said...

I never thought of outlining revisions, what a great idea! Good luck getting it all done--and your NOT a terrible writer. But you know that, right?

Anita said...

ack! Don't you hate writer's neurosis? I'm going through something like that myself right now. So know that you're not alone! Although mine isn't a revision thing, it's a first draft thing this time around. Congrats on being so far along w/Bob, and I hope this revision will be THE ONE.

BTW, I'm presenting some awards over at my blog tomorrow and you're a recipient of one. PLease stop by if you have time!

Donna said...

The whole process is hard, but just remember the words you produce are a blessing to your readers. go forward...your muse is waiting

Krista V. said...

Erica, you're so right - toddlers throw tantrums a lot, but they never dwell on those negative emotions. (I should know; I have two.) They get it out of their systems and move on.

So now I'm curious, Kris - how do you keep track of a revision if you don't outline it or make some kind of list? (And thanks for the words of encouragement. I do think I'm an okay writer - some days, at least... :) )

Anita, I hope you resolve those first-draft issues quickly. And thank you so much for the award! I'll definitely stop by to check it out.

What beautiful words of encouragement, Donna. Thank you.

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Bethany C. said...

Well it's nice to know I'm not the only sucky writer out there! ;)
I'm convinced that if you don't think your work is crap from time to time, you're not doing it right.

I just ventured into the beta world myself. Not only is it scary to let other people (gulp, writers) read your stuff--the name alone is a deterrent. Beta's are the meanest, most uncooperative fish ever!

Krista V. said...

Thanks for stopping by, sewa mobil.

Bethany, writers don't have a lot of common traits, but self-doubt seems to be one of them:) I'm just amazed at how quickly we can go from feeling great to feeling crappy about our work.

LisaAnn said...

Hi Krista! I just wandered over from Anita's blog, and I look forward to exploring your site further... :)

Krista V. said...

LisaAnn, hello! (I just popped over to your blog to say hello there, too.) Feel free to explore:)

Myrna Foster said...

Sorting through CP comments is an emotional roller coaster for me. And then it's hard to decide which comments are in sync with your story. Good luck!

Krista V. said...

That's a skill I'm definitely still working on, how to tell which comments are in sync with your story. Sometimes I feel like if I don't take every bit of their advice, then I'm not taking them seriously.