Sunday, February 26, 2006

Revisions and me

Kate Hardy recently asked what is the favourite part of writing for you. I put my hand up and said revisions. Not the usual response I know. Many writers hate revisions.
I love other parts of writing. It is fun doing the first draft, but really it is only between you and the computer. You know that things will change and you are doing your best, but there are ALWAYS revisions. Some of these you will pick up, some the critque partners will pick up or have questions about. Questions are good. They force you to think why, and some the editor will spot. It is all about taking the rough lump of clay and moulding it.
Doing revisions is not a sign of failure. Revisons help make a good book great.It is a sign that your editor believes in you and your book enough to give guidance on how to make it stronger. Revisions give you a chance to rethink and revisit your characters. At this point for me, my characters are old friends.
They can also show up where you took a wrong turning, where you took an easy option.
At their best, revisions challenge you. They give you the ability to take your book to the next level. Writers tend to like to stay in their comfort zones. A good editor inspires the writer.
Sometimes, the longer and more detailed the revisons, the more the editor can see. I have heard of NYT best sellers that have had twenty five pages of closely written revisions. The editor believed in that book and wanted it to be the best book possible. Editors do not ask for revisions lightly. If they see too many problems, they will ask you to put the ms aside for awhile and write something new. Revisions mean they can see something worthwhile.
Revisions are an opportunity rather than a road block.
Revisions are a helping hand up, a way around stones in the road.
When you are doing revisions, you know the characters and the basic situation. You also know one way it didn't work. Or in my cases, several ways it didn't work.
Revisions force me to concentrate on what is the essential part of the book. How can I keep those things that I want to keep and still make those changes that the editor sees as essential? How can I learn from the revisions I am asked to do so that I make other mistakes next time?
At the moment -- I keep hearing the lovely tones of my editor -- such and sch would never intentionally put the heroine in harm's way. It is something I have learnt and I have to make sure it is explained. One of the best pieces of advice an editor gave me was to make sure the turning points are active and come from the actions of the main characters. Hopefully through the process of revision, my own eye is developing and I am more able to step back and make the changes before the editor has her read through. But there are ALWAYS revisions. And sometimes there are more than one set.
In the final analysis, it is about trusting the eye of your editor. And a good editor is worth her weight in gold. At the moment, I am very lucky with my editors. Their guidance has been clear, and has sparked ideas about how I can make the ms better.
Now if I want to get to those revisions, those final tweaks, I have to finish the last chapter and epilogue...
So in my humble opinion, revisions are not something to be feared or fought against, but are something to be embraced. They are about making the book the strongest it can possibly be.


Anonymous said...

Well said! I am ever grateful for the opportunity to do revisions on my mss for M&B. It was very helpful.

Anonymous said...

That's really, really inspiring, Michelle. Thanks for sharing. I'm going to print that out and stick it above my desk (and read it when I get the email I'm expecting from my ed next week!).

Julie Cohen said...

Also add--revisions are a chance to correct the stupid mistakes you put in the first draft and didn't notice. :-)

Julie, whose editor tactfully pointed out her hero had disposed of a single condom twice

Donna Alward said...

I'm learning to like my cp's revisions. LOL Maybe not so much the work of it but I'm usually so pleased with the result...and as I'm a results kind of girl, there's something magical about taking a piece of your writing and then seeing it as having gone up a level. It gives a real sense of accomplishment.

Amanda Ashby said...

Michelle, I'm a bit late, but thanks for a great post. I just got my first official revisions letter today and it's massive, so like Kate, I think I will print out your post as a way to keep me focused.

Anne McAllister said...

I totally agree. Revisions are, for me, what really make the book. Of course the initial idea and the joy of starting out are fun. But bringing the whole story 'home' and making it the best I can is always the most rewarding part. It's like when I finally see what I'm trying to do and where I've been trying to go -- and realize how to get there.

I'm in the middle of some now -- and I'm always amazed by what I didn't see the first time (or the tenth!) that suddenly seems clear now. Thank heavens.

I've had several books accepted with 'no revisions.' And I'm always a little more worried about them than I am about the ones I can have another go at. I like the space that comes with having the book out of the house for anywhere from a few days to a month (depending on how swamped or desperate my editor is)!