Monday, June 4, 2012
Mechanics on Monday...Revisions!
Last week I turned in my third book to Entangled. It was the first book I’ve actually had a deadline for. Was I worried? Nope, not me! You see, I thought this was going to be a fairly ‘easy’ book to write. Why did I make that ridiculous assumption? Well, because about three years ago I had finished this book, and despite it being rejected by my current agent, and an editor, it had received really nice feedback. I still loved the characters, the story, the message. I genuinely thought, how hard could it be to revise an old manuscript based on what I know now?
Turns out, it was the most difficult book I’ve written.
I thought more than once while writing it that I really had no idea what I was doing. I was a sham, an imposter, an idiot. I didn’t think I would ever get it done. I’ve been to hell and back with this manuscript. Believe me, I’ve whined and complained and cried about this manuscript. Poor fellow Hot Pink Sister, Olivia Miles, had to endure many emails filled with my endless speculations as to why I just wasn’t getting it. I consumed more bags of Kettle Chips while re-writing this book than I have during my entire life (I believe I even wrote them into a scene). I think my DH even asked, one night when he ventured into my office, looked at my desk filled with empty coffee mugs, sheets of scribbled notes, and an empty glass of wine, if I was re-writing WAR AND PEACE. Obviously, that comment wasn’t well received. :-)
Well, here I am, a few months later, book turned in, still alive. Barely. It seemed like every day I had a new epiphany, a new idea as to what needed to be done. I’ve concluded that sometimes, it’s just easier to scrap the entire darn thing and start over. That is what I essentially did. I just wished I had known that was the path that I needed to take right from the beginning. Most of the scenes were the same, the characters, the setting-all the same. But I had to re-write. Based on my voice, on how I’ve evolved as a writer, I just had to do it.
So, I’ve put together a little list. Maybe you’ve got an old manuscript out there that you just can’t seem to leave tucked away in a drawer. Maybe you have characters that are so vivid, that you can’t help but want to revisit them. Here’s hoping this list can help you save time...and sanity as you revise an old manuscript:
1) Delete: Seriously. Scrap it. Be ruthless, be brave. The delete key is your best friend. If I could count all the hours I spent staring at dialogue and description that just didn’t ‘feel’ right, I’d be weeping. I would look at chunks of this book and wonder what it was about certain scenes that just weren’t working. So, I’d try and tweak. And it still didn’t work. What worked? Chucking the darn thing and re-writing it. In my voice. Now.
2) Face the Heat: Take all the comments you received on the manuscript (if it was previously rejected) and figure out how you can incorporate that feedback. I knew right away what needed to be done to my heroine. Her motives were contrived in the previous manuscript, so I needed to figure out (before I started revising) what I was going to change in order to make her more true to herself. And I did. And the conflict is that much stronger.
3) It doesn’t have to be goodbye forever: I know, it hurts to say goodbye to the words you worked so hard to write. Even if they were a while ago. It’s still painful. So, I started a separate file where all my precious deleted words could go to. It stung a little less. I’ll let you know the whopping total deleted words at the end of this little post.
4) Dig Deeper: Now, maybe this doesn’t apply to you. But when I look at my earlier work, I see more surface writing. The characters were not three-dimensional. In my head, they may have been, but it didn’t really translate onto paper. I think writing deep pain and hurt made me...uncomfortable. It still does. But I’ve learned that it needs to be done. I still have issues writing love scenes, because usually the love scene has deep emotion attached to it. I need to turn off the inner-editor and let the emotion seep onto the page. Usually wine helps me with this :-)
5) Step away from the manuscript: I know, I know, if you’ve got a deadline, you can’t take time away from writing! But, I spent so much time staring at my manuscript blankly that I might as well have been sleeping. Taking some time away from it can lead to interesting solutions when you’re busy doing mundane things like groceries or laundry. I had so much dialogue bouncing around in my brain after leaving my manuscript that when it was time to get back to my keyboard, the words just flowed.
Okay, so that’s it! My little list of the things I’ve learned. I’m by nooooooo means an expert, but having just gone through this painful process, thought I’d share. The book’s been submitted, so now I wait to hear what my editor thinks of it...hmmm...perhaps a post on waiting should be next? Do you have any tips or tricks you'd like to share?
Oh, and what was the final deleted word count? 43,409. Ouch.