Monday, January 08, 2007

Revision Rules

A few months ago I emailed you about my WIP. At the time I had about 100 pages completed. I'm now happy to report that I have a completed rough draft! I wanted to get your thoughts on the revision process. How do you go about it? Do you have a writing group or trusted friends you show your rough draft to?

First of all, congrats on finishing your WIP!! What an accomplishment!

Everyone has his or her own way that he or she likes to revise, so take the following with a huge grain of salt. I'm sure that others will weigh in on what works best for them in the comments section. But my process is generally as follows.

To begin with, I tend to revise as I go along. Once I've completed a few chunks of the WIP, say, 5 chapters or 50 pages or whatever feels like a good breaking point, I go back and reread. Not only does this allow me to tighten up the prose as I go along, but it also brings me up to speed on what I've already written...something that I might have lost track of. Honestly, I'll reread certain passages and have completely forgotten that I'd written them! (This is why some writers map out all of their plot points, etc, but that doesn't really work for my process.)

Once my WIP is complete or half-done, I shoot it to my agent. If you don't have an agent or if your agent isn't interested in reading a WIP, this is when, I'd guess, you'd pass it to a trusted reader. This doesn't include: your mom, your husband, your best friend, your therapist. The purpose of this read isn't for your reader to tell you how brilliant your draft is because, honestly, at this point, nearly every book needs work. I remember reading a best-selling novelist's blog a while back in which she noted that one of her huge sellers required something like four drafts. So even if you think your WIP is perfect, it's not. So hand your WIP to someone who can not only be objective, but will also ask you questions that require you to probe deeper into your characters and tweak your plot, etc. My agent does these things for me exactly, so I don't feel the need to bring it to a critique group or partner. Honestly, I'm also not sure how I'd find someone else whose opinion I trusted so much...but if you can find that person, then go for it.

From there, I rinse, lather and repeat. Meaning, I really don't expect to revise the WIP just once. Even reading the galley of TDLF, I see sentences that make me cringe, and we fine-tuned the last chapter only recently to tighten it up.

One other thought: a lot of people suggest that you take some time off from the WIP in order to step back into it with fresh eyes. I say to this: do whatever works for you. When I was revising TDLF, I dove into the new drafts without any time off - the time from the first word I typed to the last revise was no more than four months. But on the other hand, now when I reread my first novel (the one that didn't sell), I see SO many problems with it, problems that I was totally immune to when I wrote it. So I guess my advice here is that if you're stuck or if you're not getting any agent bites, maybe it is wise to step away, but if you're really in the writing groove and the creative juices are flowing, then keep at it.

So...what's your own writing process? I know that a ton of readers have writing partners. How did you find someone whom you trust?

5 comments:

Amy MacKinnon said...

Great question and, as always, response.

Coincidentally our writers' group is blogging this week about revising. I wouldn't trust myself to revise without them.

Good luck to you!

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell said...

My primary writing buddy is someone across the country that I met at a writers conference. She knows my work and my goals and helps me revise and always gives me valuable critique. I've been involved in writers groups that have been very helpful. The challenge there is sorting through the comments to the ones you find valuable.
Good luck.
Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell
(www.writeforyou.biz)

Amie Stuart said...

I tend to write in sections but instead of sending to my agent, I send to my CP's. Once I'm done, I do a final read-through ON PAPER of the entire book, marking things to fix as I go. I've met writers who don't do paper edits and I really feel you miss so much that way.

It took me a while to find a group I'm comfortable with, we're not a formal group and we don't all crit for each other. Two of them are RWA Chaptermates and one is a friend I met on the eharlequin board 2 years ago.

Alison Ashley Formento said...

Great topic. I have to work on chapters, or set myself a goal of a certain number of pages for revisions or I get overwhelmed. I'm revising my first novel now and believe (hope) my next WIP will flow easier after going through this. My main problem: patience. I so want to finish to get it out to agents, but I'm a not as fast at this as I'd like to be. Also, read everything aloud. It really helps me know what sounds real.

Amy Ettinger said...

I live in NYC and am looking for a good writers' group. Any suggestions?