A Needed Time Away

Last week, I started the long revision process of fixing up the novel I finished last summer, BUMMIN' IT. I'm having a great time. It's so good to be back in my creative mind. I've spent the last 9 months developing a side business developing awesome resources for teachers to purchase and use in their classrooms. It's been a much-needed time away from the novel page. From 2005-2012, I wrote 4 novels like a chain-smoker...finishing one, only to move right on to the next one. After not-yet-selling any of the first three and with this business opportunity in my lap, I took some time off from novel writing.

Now, I'm back.

I had a bunch of beta readers who gave me their sincere and helpful thoughts about the novel. So here's what I did:

(1st) I read through all their comments and mentally categorized all the topics to approach in revision.

(2nd) I combined all their comments/big-edits/line-edits together into one prototype book that I had printed through Lulu.com.

(3rd) I compiled all the big revision ideas into a 6-page Editor Letter to Myself. This is broken into categories like DEEPEN THEMES, BIG PLOT FIXES, LITTLE PLOT FIX CONSIDERATIONS, TIMELINE, SETTING, then ONE FOR EACH CHARACTER

(4th) I go page by page through the novel and type in all the little line edits and easy addition/rewording fixes. I know some authors do this after they've fixed all the big things because they'll save time by not having to fix certain wording things. For me, it's like a snowball effect...I knock out a bunch of the little stuff to get the snowball rolling with some speed down the hill. Also, the fixes easier to find when the wording is all the same. If I go fixing a bunch of big passages, I feel like I end up wasting time later looking for a little wording issue I need to fix, only to find out that passage isn't in the novel anymore. If I just fix it first, then I don't have to worry about letting a little thing slip through the cracks.

(5th) I go through and address the larger plot issues.

(6th) I deepen the larger themes. I look for dialogues or scenes that aren't fully earning their page space and reimagine how to purpose that page space. Maybe a conversation that is currently just introducing character can be altered to also layer the thematic meaning throughout, in an unforced way.

Before I did this process, though, the whole thing was completely overwhelming. Revising a novel is a lot like wading into a rushing river and deciding to change its direction. This game plan restored my sanity and gave me confidence to approach this revision with clarity.

Anyone out there revising a novel? What's your process like? And why?

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The Revision Process

This June, I finished writing my 4th unpublished novel, BUMMIN' IT. And I saw that it was good.

I then spent the rest of summer revising it. And I saw that it was good.

Now, I'm not going to look at it again until Thanksgiving, which feels like a long time, but I know it still might not be enough time. This time, I printed and bound 10 copies so they looked like actual books and gave them to my beta readers. They are all at various stages of reading through the novel and critiquing it, and I'm so very excited to hear their thoughts.

Even if they say it needs tons of work. Because that means I need to put in tons of work. This novel deserves the work. And I suppose when I really get down to it, my first 3 novels deserved the work too. And I put in a lot of work. But it wasn't the kind of work I'm ready to put in now.

I don't know what's changed in my brain, but something has changed. Maybe it's because of the choice I had to make when #3 EYES LIKE GODS didn't get picked up by an agent. That was hard to start writing again. I had really worked hard to get better. I had studied other novels, read writing books, been active in my critique group for years. But that didn't make the rejection any easier.

I DID eventually make the decision, though, and I wrote again. I wrote another novel. And if this one doesn't get picked up, I'll write another, and another. But before I write novel #5, I've gotta put in the time of patience until I hear back from my readers and start the long haul of revision again. I'm up for it this time. I'm totally willing to revise big chunks. Whatever needs to go. Whatever needs to be added. I'll do it.

But now I'm waiting.

And reading. Because like Stephen King says, "Reading is writing."