Monday, December 9, 2013

Revising my way to a finished book

by Meredith Cole

We had freezing rain on Sunday here in Virginia and there was major panic from my fellow locals. They all ran out and bought extra milk, bread, water, batteries and toilet paper. And what did I do? I stayed home and revised my book (making sure my laptop was fully charged--just in case we lost power) because I am a writer and that's what writers do.

Revisions always take way longer than I think they will. For a first draft I usually give myself a word count goal and I feel elated as I watch the number of words pile up every day. But when I get to the end, it's time to take a cold hard look at what I've written. And most of it has to go.

I just finished teaching a novel writing class, and I always try to be honest with my students. "How many revisions do you do?" they ask me. And I realize that I have no idea. Does a partial rewrite of the first 30 pages count? Does going through to make sure some detail got changed throughout the book count? But if you're talking full revisions where I go through and try to make each detail as strong and true as possible, I would guess at least 9 times. But it could be more...

Revising does not sound like fun to most people, and my many of my novel writing students' eyes glaze over at the thought. Even some professional writers hate revising passionately. But I love to dig deep and see my story get better and better.

So bring on the bad winter weather (just leave on the heat and electricity, please). I will use it as an excuse to stay home and get my next book polished. And hopefully I'll have my book all finished soon. At least this draft.


Barry Knister said...

For me, meaningful, satisfying revision is dependent on a good stretch of time between drafting something, and going back to it. The longer the better. Only in this way can I gain distance enough to "enjoy" those slapping-the-forehead moments--"What was I thinking?"

Susan C Shea said...

I almost think of what comes after the first full draft and a second full draft. For me, the part of revisions I dislike is when I've had to eliminate a plot element that has threads leading out everywhere in the rest of the manuscript, threads that have to be captured, one by one, in the most obscure places. Ugh.

Susan C Shea said...

bad typing: "after the full first draft IS a second..."

Meredith Cole said...

That's a great tip! Some distance is always necessary for me (and is definitely what makes my books take a long time to finish...)

Meredith Cole said...

I love how you revised your comment! I hate chasing down those threads, too. I just moved some scenes around and now I'm deleting references to things that haven't happened yet... Argh!

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