Friday, October 2, 2009

Review of Revisions, part 2

I thought when I came up with my revision plan, I had all my bases covered. This isn't my first rodeo, and I thought I'd come up with the perfect way to revise--especially for me, the girl who *HATES* revisions.

There were a few things that I didn't count on, though, that didn't work out as well for me.

  • Time: Yup. It's in my "what worked" category, too. I dedicated the summer (which I had off as I'm a teacher) to finishing and revising the manuscript. I essentially wrote the ending and did a self-revision in June and sent to beta readers/revised again in July and August. And while it was nice to be able to dedicate my time to revising and rewriting, this meant that most of the summer was spent doing just as much work--in time and in effort--than if I'd been going to the day job. I dedicated so much focus to revising that, to be honest, I burnt myself out a bit. By the time I did the final rewrite, I was so tired of the manuscript that I didn't want to look at it...or anything else writing-related. This has stalled my creativity on a new project, and has made me reluctant to go back to the old one.
  • How I could have fixed this: Short of quitting my day job and having the luxury of being a full-time writer, I don't think it's possible for me to fix this situation. There will always be less time than I need. And while time played both for and against me, I still think that revising in the summer, and giving that revision my total dedication, was the only way I could have accomplished my goal of being done with the manuscript by fall.
  • Resubmission: This is something that I learned from this process--and another thing that's actually listed as a good feature in my last post. After all the rounds of readers and all the revisions, I tested out the new beginning with some of my early readers--not just my alpha reader, but also the critique group that saw the early chapters. The later readers all confirmed that the new beginning was stronger, more in line with the overall project, and a better hook. The paid editor I used confirmed this as well, as did a few discreet people who I showed just the opening chapters to. But when I sent it back to the earliest was met with universal distaste, warnings not to change too much, and wishes for features that I had since been eliminated. This did pop a hole in my happy balloon for a bit, but I had to remind myself that the difference here is that they *did* see an original. It's hard to change--and it's hard to accept change. To them, the story started in this specific way, and starting it a different way was too abrupt, too far away from their vision, for them to like the new ending.
  • How I could have fixed this? Don't submit drastic edits to people who have seen the original--or, if you do, don't feel entirely discouraged when their reaction isn't about whether it works *now*, but what they liked about *then*.
  • Self-Revision: This remains my weakest area. When I self-edited, I still struggled to see the big picture. I spent a *lot* of time working on taking notes and organizing them. I read and re-read the manuscript so much that I made myself become too close to it. While the note-taking was an OK approach, it was too time-consuming and too detailed for me.
  • How I could have fixed this? I'm not sure. I absolutely do believe in doing self-revisions before submitting to peers, but my method wasn't as efficient as I would have liked, and I will need to come up with a new strategy by the next book. I've tried several things--note cards, bulletin boards, Word notes, etc., but still am not happy with any method.
Addendum to What Didn't Work:
In doing these two posts, I realized something very important about myself. I never, *never* could have done this level of revisions this quickly without a few things already in place.
  • Experience with my own writing: I was able to pinpoint what needed work in what areas specifically because I've written and revised several books, and have (through this blog, workshops, and critique groups) been able to reflect on what my weakest areas in writing are. I would not have been able to make the changes I made to the manuscript even a few years ago--the practice I've put into other manuscripts have enabled me to be able to write (and revise) this one better.
  • Experience with other writers: Everyone who was a reader for me was someone I've worked with before. Knowing them, knowing their writing style, and knowing their editing style helped me to pinpoint who would best aid my manuscript. Without that experience, it would have been a bit of a crap shoot & hope for the best situation. But because I knew and trusted these readers, I spent less time questioning whether they were right, and more time analyzing how and why they were right.

So...has there ever been a revision plan that particularly didn't work for you?
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