Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Now What?

So, first draft of WIP is finished. Yay! Celebration! Get some champagne!

...but as I stare at my computer, all I can ask myself is...

Now what?

Now? Now it's time for...

The Massive Revision Plan

Here's the thing: I killed my last manuscript with over-editing. I listened to too many other people, tried to make a book for everyone else, and ended up with a voiceless mess. Then, I was approaching everyone and throwing my manuscript at them, screaming READ THIS! BE MERCILESS! CRITIQUE MEEEEEE! I scared puppies and small children with my shouting, but it worked: I got readers. Lots of them. And then I took ALL their comments and revised...and cut...and made that manuscript bleed so much red ink that it bled out. So, I'm being a bit more strategic this time.

My Theory: It's better to revise in stages than all at once.

My Logic: How many times have you submitted a "perfect" piece of work and started waiting? In the meantime, you revisit that work, realize it's crap, revise, and wish you could resend the better stuff, but it's too late? That's happened to me SO MANY TIMES. I've noticed that after I send my manuscript out and get rejections, I realize why it's being rejected and can revise...but it's too late for those who've already rejected me.

So, here's the plan.

  1. Initial Reading: Robyn. Robyn's my real-life critique person (in that I meet her in real life, not that my other critique partners are robots. Although, I've always wondered....) Since I meet her in real life, I've been giving her first drafts pages of the WIP for our meetings. Actually, she started reading Chapter 1 before I'd finished half of the novel, which was a scary thing and kept me on track writing, let me tell you! But the great thing was, Robyn could point out plot holes, pacing problems, and character weaknesses early on. Some of her suggestions shaped the course of the novel. Hey, Robyn, did you know that Harley was originally only supposed to show up in one chapter, then disappear? Since you liked him so much, I developed him into a full supporting character!
  2. First Draft Reading: Heather and Christy. I've worked with both these ladies in the past, and what I love about them is that they get big picture ideas. My problem with my last work is that I fixed all the little stuff--word choice, grammar, etc.--before I tackled the big stuff. So here I was, ten-plus hours invested in a revision, and now there's all this big stuff that needs to be fixed, making the little stuff worthless (as it was cut). So, I've enlisted these ladies to take a look at the whole thing. I asked them specifically because I knew how good they were at the big picture thing--and how they're not afraid to tell me what they really think!
  3. My Own Revision Notes: While the first draft is being read, I'm going to go through the manuscript once more and take notes on what I think needs changing. I've already got some ideas, especially as pertains to the motivations of one of my main characters, and I'm going to go ahead and re-write some chapters dealing with him. Then, I'm going to add comments in my own text (the way many critiquers do, by addding that little side-comment thing in the margins). I'm sure I'll fix some as I go, but during this read-through, my real intent is going to be to focus on taking notes of things to change later. Because....
  4. Compare Notes: On of my fatal flaws in past critiques of my work was that I forgot about what I thought. I listened to others--and didn't compare what they had to say with my own ideas. So, once I've got my own notes done, I'll take a look at what Robyn, Christy, and Heather have said, and compare. If I'm worried about one thing and no one else has noticed it, then clearly I'm being obsessive. If I think one thing is fine, but everyone else doesn't, then clearly I need to revisit that thing.
  5. Rewrite: Here's where I'm going to fix all the big picture things. Plot holes tied up, loose ends met, character motivations clear. My rough idea of a plan for this is to use notecards where I sum up key things (character motivation, clues for the mystery, plot progression) that happen in each chapter, then lay out the notecards and evaluate the pace, plot holes, and continuity weaknesses. And then rewrite the manuscript tightening the aresa on the notecards.
  6. Bringing in the Pros, Part One: Genre Lovers: Through this blog, I've found some amazing fellow writers out there who are not only clearly good writers (as evidenced by their blogs), but also love the same kinds of books I do, and my genre. I'm going to beg them ask nicely if they'll pleaseplesaeplease be willing to read a more polished draft.
  7. Bringing in the Pros, Part Two: Writers: I'm also fortunate enough to be in touch with a trio of professional writers who have been published. They know who they are (but I'm not sure if they want a mention on here). :) And once I've got a good-as-I-can-make-it draft, I'm going to be begging them asking them nicely if they'll pleasepleaseplease be willing to read that draft, too.
  8. Why Wait? I'm spacing out beta reads this way because I think it'll help me get more bang for my (proverbial) buck. If one of the early readers suggests something and I fix it, and then a later reader reads it and it doesn't work, then I've still got a chance to fix it. As opposed to everyone reading at the same time--which led to conflicting ideas and no real chance for follow ups after revisions. Also, I'm staging it so that I can play up my friends' strengths. The ones I know do good at big picture are the ones I'm asking first. The ones I know will do better with final ideas and polishing, I'm calling on them last.
  9. Family Draft: After this, the husband and the mother get a copy. Yeah, I'm saving them for last. Here's why: they're not writers. But they are both readers. They won't point out much of anything--but if they do have a question or problem with anything, then I know it's not something that will work in the real world. They're my test market.
  10. Final Read-Through: Now I'm going to do one last read through of the novel. I'll highlight and change over-used words and sentence structures. I'll print out a copy (the first copy printed! In the past, printing was the first thing I did.) and bring out my red pen. I'll correct and revise and... be done?
Projected Timeline:
  1. Complete Rewrite after First Draft reviewers get back to me by the end of July.
  2. Have Rewritten Draft in hands of "pros" by August.
  3. Complete Final Read-Through and submit draft to agents by September.
I look at that projected timeline and cringe. Three months before I send this baby out? It's the best thing I've ever written, I'm more in love with it than many people, and I'm not going to share with the world for three whole months?!

I'm not. And here's why. Too often, I submit too early. I think the manuscript is done, but it never is. Smarter people than me have written more eloquently on the subject.

And besides, look at the timeline more closely. I began writing in January, finished in June. That's six months. If it takes me six months to write it, and then three months to revise and rewrite it, that's not unreasonable. It actually makes sense, in my weird, numbers-never-make-sense-to-me kind of brain: however long it took you to write the book, it will take at least half as long again to rewrite it.

Besides, I am also not forgetting the give-and-take set-up of this: I'm not just throwing my manuscript at people and demanding they read it--I'm also offering to read theirs in return.

So that's the plan. And now I've got to go start up some revision notes!


~Jamie said...

I think this is a good plan! I do have a small suggestion though... be careful of querying right after November because ALL of those Nanowrimo people will be, and your perfect book will get lost in their slush!

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Oh that used to happen to me with older drafts of my WIP, I'd get attached to a sentence bc one person in my critique group liked it, or I'd keep a scene I meant to delete to please someone. Now I'm just going and pushing through not thinking about pleasing anyone but myself (and the story I planned) and it's working 1,000 times better. Cool plan for revision. I hope I'm there in the next two weeks or so!

Carrie Harris said...

Now that sounds like a plan. I know what you mean about the schedule being wince-worthy, but it gives you time to do what you need to do. Good luck with it!

christine M said...

What a great plan and schedule. My plan/schedules always seem much more arbitrary. I know that this will work for you! I can't wait till it's my chance to read a draft!

PJ Hoover said...

I hope I'm on the list somewhere, 'cause I'm not taking you off my list :)

I love revising in waves. I always want to get someone to read it right away because I'm so excited (and Christine normally gets this burden/honor). And then I clean things up more, revise more, all that.

It's a great schedule and I know your story will be wonderful!

B.J. Anderson said...

I think that's an awesome plan! And the time it has taken you to write is not unreasonable at all. Good luck with the revisions!!

Angela Ackerman said...

This is a good system. I'd create a special step for a character expert--one who knows character. motivation and growth arc like the back of their hand. :-)

Casey Something said...

You've inspired me, Beth! I had given myself until Sept to have my rewrite done and into the hand of betas and critiquers, but I think I'll move it up to August. That should get my butt in gear again.

: )

Unknown said...

PJ & Chris: Y'all are totally my "pros" :)

Frankie: That's what killed my other manuscript, I think. At least for now--I still like the story, but the words don't feel like "mine" any more, if that makes sense.

Jamie: Good idea--I didn't think of that! Although maybe that will make my more polished ms. stand out *more*.......

Casey: Yay! I'm glad--I've found that working on a loose schedule (I don't make daily goals) really helps me to focus on getting the job done--and in a timely manner!

Clementine said...

Oh Miss Beth, I know what you mean. When I returned from the SCBWI conference in NYC this past January, I realized how much I needed to be true to myself. There is a difference in learning technique and losing yourself in other's opinions. I've made the mistake of early submission over and over again. The longer that novel marinates, the more I see.
It's a big deal to finish. You should celebrate, you've worked hard. Just drag that celebration out for as long as you can. Then, go back and edit. And by the way, I think Miss Robyn is pretty special too! I've never even met her except through my blog. But she is such an encouragement. You're lucky to have her as your critique partner!

lotusgirl said...

Congrats of finishing! I think you should at least take some time off from it, but I understand your goals to get it out. It would be great to read for you sometime. I've learned a lot about critting in the last few months. I'm probably better in the later stages.

Robyn Campbell said...

Does this mean I get a share in the advance and royalties???? Woohoo. *happy dance*

Get outta here, saying I'm responsible for you adding more of Harley. WHOA! I'm glad you added more of him, because he is an awesome character.

Whew, glad I'm not a robot!:) I love the way you put things, and C should make a pretty good test market. :)

Can I have a signed copy when it comes out? You know, write something sweet on it, okay? :)

Thanks for the shoutout my friend. Glad you're home again. :)

Keri Mikulski said...

Wow! What a great, well thought out plan. :) Good luck with the revisions.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your plan, Beth. And you're right, wait wait wait until you have revised your manuscript and polished it to a shine before you send it out. Because, as you said, you will lose the chance with those agents/editors who saw it in an earlier phase. I've written about this a lot of my blog.

I'd also suggest taking time out from the manuscript yourself. I fully understand wanting to get your book into submission as quickly as possible, because you're excited about it. But, one of the reasons you saw changes that could have been made in your last book was because you looked at it after taking time out to submit it. Giving your brain that time away from a project allows you to see it with a fresh eye, and that will help you ENORMOUSLY in your revision. Take a month and start working on your next book, then come back to this one and start your revision. It will pay off in the end. Getting others to read your work and critique it is priceless, but ultimately, it's YOUR book, and to make the best judgements about it, you need to see it clearly. A break will give you that.

Best of luck

Heather Zundel said...

I don't mind being a cyborg robot. Do I get a jet pack? :D (Thanks for the shoutout as well). It is fantastic so far.