Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Structure for Revisions

First: Sorry being in such a whiny snit earlier. That's pretty rare for me. I shouldn't have posted so soon after reading the crit...and, despite being in a whiny snit, I do appreciate honest feedback.

Now, on to the topic at hand. Revisions. Ah, I remember the days. The good old days. When I thought all I had to do was fix the (few, of course) grammar mistakes and my little book would be perfect. I wrote "the end," printed the whole thing out, but a few little red marks on it, and mailed it off.


With this new manuscript, I've started (accidentally) to figure out a new way to revise, and it has been working, so far.

FIRST: Sent out the first few chapters to some people to get immediate reactions of what worked/didn't. This wasn't my serious critique people--I'm talking about mom, husband, friend...generally positive feedback who could tell me in very broad terms their favorite and least favorite parts. That gave me a basis to work from.

SECOND: Cut to market size. In my experience, an agent generally wants one of the following:
  1. First 5 pages with query
  2. First 3 chapters with query
  3. First 50 pages (with query, or as a partial request)
Therefore, I really analyzed those pages. I cut about 20 or so pages to get a big "reveal" scene within the first 50 pages--now, if you stop at page 50, you know what part of the twist is, and there's a clear direction for what the main characters will do. Then, I looked at the first 3 chapters. I made sure to drop some heavy hints within those chapters and really make them tight (which required some more cutting and moving around). Now I'm focusing on the first five. My beginning isn't working, and I'm honing it to make it perfect.

THIRD: I needed the most help with the beginning--it's my first impression, and I've got to make it perfect. So, I submitted (and resubmitted) the first chapter to different people who I consider "critiquers" (as opposed to smiling friends and family). I sent the chapter to one of my crit groups, and also submitted it to the online site to get some real anonymous, honest feedback (despite my earlier snit--I really have appreciated the help from that site). This has led to three different openings...

FOUR: A series of rewrites--perfect the opening and (future plans here) start taking a closer look past page 50 (especially the rushed ending), probably using more page/cut goals (i.e. cut so many pages by such and such a goal mark).

FIFTH: Once all the major cuts and structure is done, I'm going to print a copy and make sure grammar is tight.

SIXTH: I'd like to do a manuscript swap by this time, or some higher level of critique. It's my goal to be at this step by mid-September when I attend my state SCBWI conference.

SEVENTH: Start submissions after a final rewrite based on critique.

This is a drastic change for me--for all my other books, I'd print a copy, fix grammar and a few structure problems, and call it a day. I've got to say, I'm being much more productive with this style of rewriting.


christine M said...

Sounds like you have a great structure set out for your revisions. Here's wishing you the best of luck with them!

PJ Hoover said...

Too funny. Chris said exactly what I was going to say. The fact that you're putting this much effort into the revisions is huge. So many people skimp on them. And honing in those first impression pages is a great idea!
Have fun!

Unknown said...

Heh...I've not always been that good. Not too long ago, I was just printing and proofing grammar (cuz nothing could be wrong with the structure, could it?!)

I think it's because I hate revising so much...if I didn't make a structure for it, I'd be slack.