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.

WHAT DIDN'T WORK:
  • 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 readers...it 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?

14 comments:

Tamika: said...

Beth,

Thanks for letting us peek at your revision schedule. This is my first manuscript, and the revision avenue scares me the most.

I will be revisiting this post again soon for a refresher.

Blessings to you...

Miriam S.Forster said...

What great information! And I admire your awesome organization. :)

I read somewhere that you should never bring the same project back to your critique group. If you didn't make the changes they wanted, why would they like it better? And if you did, how can they argue with it?

That always seemed to be good advice to me, so I always try to look for fresh eyes. (With the exception of my husband who reads more like an editor anyway.)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

You've pinpointed some excellent issues; I am awed by your ability to analyze this. I have noticed similiar problems in bringing work back to critique. People are happy when you take advice, but sometimes unhappy when you change something they liked, especially if they fall in love with the characters, etc. I don't have the answers yet, but I think as we grow stronger as writer/editors ourselves we see when a critiquer hits one of our weaknesses or when it's a quirk of their own.

MeganRebekah said...

I think it's so important to be able to do this type of self reflection to see what works for you and what doesn;t; what you can improve and what will always be a barrier (like silly jobs).

Becky Levine said...

Great post. I'm going to link to these two revision posts over on my blog--I think people will really appreciate your analysis.

I'm wondering about the self-revision--if you gave yourself just a little more "slack," and knew that you wouldn't have it all revised before you passed it on for more critique? My experience is that getting closer and closer doesn't happen fast enough to make us happy, but it does happen if we keep coming back to the story, especially after going around on it with other readers. Or maybe you did perfectly and you just wanted more--we all go there!

T. Anne said...

I find the more revisions I do the less I stress about them I hate the initial revision. You know the one that comes right after the first draft. That one always lands me back to reality. Ouch!

MG Higgins said...

I share the same problem of getting too close to my manuscripts--then I can' t see them objectively. When that happens I set the ms aside and don't look at it again for several weeks, a month, or even more. It's amazing how seeing a manuscript with fresh eyes can change my perspective.

PJ Hoover said...

Not getting feedback from people who really knew the industry. That is the biggest mistake I've ever made when it comes to revisions. The big picture, re-write this thing kind of feedback.

Robyn Campbell said...

Great posts pal. And how you are so adept at probing the revision process is beyond me. Must be your grammarness. :) I'm just glad I have YOU in my corner. Thanks for such helpful posts.

Have FUN this weekend. Hey to Corwin. :)

ElanaJ said...

I love this revision post as much as the one yesterday. I think it's important to have experience with your own writing. I've seen so many people who change every single thing someone says to them. Whether they know (and trust) that person or not. Don't fall into that trap! That's my advice, anyway.

lotusgirl said...

Great insights. I think you have a pretty good inner editor and your crit of my stuff was so incredibly helpful. I think that we all have to have input from those who know what they're talking about. As the writer sometimes it is so hard to pull back for the big picture.

Robyn Campbell said...

Did you see my post for today on your dashboard? Have you guys left already? :)

Amy Tate said...

Oh Beth, I feel your pain. I was there with Attack at Fleetwood Hill this time last year. I was scheduled to attend two conferences, two months apart and I had appointments at both. I was so sick of the story I could scream...and I couldn't pitch worth a dime. I don't know how to avoid that unless you work simultaneously on two pieces. I'm doing that right now and it helps. But then again, here it is 9pm and I haven't done my dishes because I'm still at the computer.

Anonymous said...

Great post! Thanks! Like you, I teach and spent most of my summer working on my manuscript. I accomplished a lot but still need more time. I have a few people in mind who I want to show my revised manuscript to, when the time comes. I'm a turtle when it comes to writing. Best of luch with your manuscript.

Stella