Current theme song: “Secrets” – OneRepublic
Current stage in process: Making it better a/k/a revisions
I thought I’d start off with a relevant quote from William Faulkner: “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” It states a raw truth about writing and revisions. Sometimes you have to cut something you love in order for something better to take its place. This is a concept that, honestly, has taken me awhile to come to terms with.
As you can see from my ‘stage in process,’ I’m in that zone which many authors loath and others love. It’s that dreaded thing called revisions. While I have completed the majority of revisions for Book #2 of Age of Aspects, it has been shelved momentarily while I work on revisions for Book #2 of a new YA urban fantasy series that I hope to be talking about more soon.
Revisions can be terrifying and overwhelming if you let them. So here’s my advice from years of cobbling books together:
DON’T LET REVISIONS OVERWHELM YOU.
How do you take control of revisions? Well, here are a few tips that I’ve picked up along the way in my own experiences.
1. GAIN DISTANCE.
No, I don’t mean physically run away from your computer (but who knows? Maybe that’ll help you, too). I mean you need to mentally separate yourself from your work. Take a break. Go on vacation. Read other books from other people. Don’t look at your own darn words for at least two weeks (although, I would recommend longer). If you’re too close to your work then you won’t be able to pick out all the flaws. Come back to it with fresh eyes. It’s only after you gain some distance that the things you never noticed before come to the surface.
2. GET ORGANIZED.
Once you’ve gained some distance, it’s time to create your battle plan because, let’s face it, chopping at your own work is a battle. Personally, I like to read through my story start to finish and not touch it for that read through (except for fixing glaring typos). Then I have a separate document open where I put my notes as I read through. I organize this document by chapter. Each chapter gets a brief summary so I know exactly where things are in the story when I go back to revise. Then each chapter also gets a bullet point list for what needs to get fixed in that section. After my read through, I end up with a document outlining the entire book and containing all my notes for corrections along with a section at the top that lists issues that are ongoing throughout the whole book that need fixing. This is my battle plan.
3. TAKE IT ONE STEP AT A TIME.
By cutting my notes into chunks by chapter, it makes revisions seem a lot more manageable. I don’t have to fix everything all at the same time. I like to find pieces that are the easiest to fix and do a few of those first. Once I see that my story is already looking a little better, I can use that momentum to tackle some of the more troublesome areas. Take it a step at a time. You wouldn’t shove a whole pie into your mouth at once would you? (I certainly hope not). You eat that pie one slice at a time. It makes everything go down easier.
4. HAVE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE.
I know. This is a tough one. I used to really, really, really hate doing revisions. I tried the whole-pie-at-once method for the very first book I wrote. You know what happened? I gave myself a stomach ache and I never wanted to touch a pie…err, revisions, ever again. I just thought that’s how it was done. Boy, was I wrong. Also, I wasn’t willing to let go of scenes or lines that I thought were so very clever of me even though they did nothing for the story. I’ve learned that things can’t grow until you burn the old forest down. Not that I want you to, you know, commit arson now. What I mean is:
DON’T LOOK AT REVISIONS AS TEARING DOWN WHAT YOU’VE MADE. THINK OF THEM AS MAKING YOUR STORY BETTER.
That small change in how I viewed revisions has changed everything. I’m not plodding through mistakes and groaning about how I have to fix them. No. There’s a great story underneath that I’m just bringing to the surface. I’m making it better.
I don’t dread revisions any more. I actually look forward to them.
(Iron Man 3)
Up next, look forward to my book review of Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (this year’s Goodreads Choice Winner for Debut Goodreads Author) which will be posted on the last Friday of the month!