A to Z Challenge 2013

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Blog Chain - The Revisionist

Before I plunge into today's blog chain, I owe Abby Annis an apology.  She is holding her 200 Followers contest and I didn't post about it.  And it ends soon.   I'm sorry Abby, but here's me making up for it.  Don't take me off the Christmas card list.  I really am an avid follower of your blog.  Almost stalker-like even.  Oh, and thanks for changing the color of the drapes.  The old ones were really horrendous.

So for the rest of you, if you haven't popped in to Abby's blog lately, you need to hustle on over.  She has over 200 followers for a good reason, and she's celebrating by giving away some awesome stuff.  The winner will receive books, some awesome pens, and a journal to use them in.  Does it get much better than this?  Well okay, a publishing contract worth 2 million would be nice too, but let's not get greedy.  Get over there and enter the contest right this second.  The contest ends on the 31st, so you don't want to miss out.

Today's blog chain question is brought to us by the incredibly talented (and recently agented for her book Revenant) Sarah who asks:

How do you handle revisions? Do you revise as you're writing, or do you wait until you've gone through beta readers and crit partners to revise? How soon after you finish do you begin your revisions?

Okay, this is a question I have been dreading, as I watch all the others on the chain explain how they do it.  This is one of the problems with being the newbie.  It just sucks because everyone else seems so cool by comparison.  Sigh.  Yeah, I know I shouldn't do comparisons.  Hard habit to break, but I'm workin' on it.

Revisions are the devil.  They're a demonic gatekeeper, laughing as they toss the key to publication from hand to hand, knowing full well you'll never pass their test and be allowed into the light.  Wow, that's dark.  Sorry.

So how do I handle revisions?  As I write, I struggle with word after word, my brain refusing to acknowledge which one might be right.  I have really had to work hard to turn off my internal revisor (and sometimes I'm even successful at it) so that I don't revise on the fly.  When I catch myself going back over a sentence, I have to mentally smack myself.  Leave it alone for now, I tell myself.  Yes, it sucks right now, but leave it alone.  I'm not always able to shut it down, but I'm getting better.  The electro-shock therapy works wonders.  And no I haven't noticed any side effects.  Side effects.  Side effects.

Oh, where was I?  Revisions.  Right.  I recently took a short story class and I was the first person to submit my story for critique.  This was when I really got a taste of why revisions are necessary.  The class tore my story to shreds (virtually, not literally) and well they should have.  Let's face it.  My story was a first draft and it sucked.  Well, it didn't suck, but it was definitely not good.  I took everyone's advice though and put it (and the critique comments) to the side for a while.  I then helped critique everyone else's, learning all the while how the things I were finding in other people's story could help me improve my own.

Now I'm revising the short story and I'm glad I took the pause and let it sit for a few weeks.  I am seeing not only things I can do better, but I'm also seeing where I can add to the story to help flesh it out properly.  My revision process is still a work-in-progress, but I have learned alot just from the answers everyone else has given on the chain.  Like the practice of laying all the critiques out side by side as I revise.  Great idea.  I still have a bit of work to do before I can say I have a concrete revision process, but the one thing I can admit is that this question has given me some really good ideas (from the other blog chainers).

Wow, I made it through this one.  Why was I dreading answering it?  Who knows.  You should probably go check out how Kat handled it.  And make a note on your calendar to stop by Margie's blog for her take on the subject.

18 comments:

Amanda said...

Revisions are the devil. They're a demonic gatekeeper, laughing as they toss the key to publication from hand to hand, knowing full well you'll never pass their test and be allowed into the light."

Eric, you are freakin' HILARIOUS! And you just have to STOP calling yourself the newbie. You are anything but! Revisions, like query letters and synopses, are evil. But a necessary evil. Revisions are like exercise: the first time you tackle one, you're sweating, and shaking, and out of breath by the time you're done. But by your fifth or six revion, you're muscles are toned, your stamina up, and you glide through the process! GREAT POST!

Eric said...

Amanda - Heh heh, thanks. Every once in a while I get a gem like that. Yeah, that passage was fun to write. And okay, I'll stop calling myself a newbie. I'm a writer, soon to be published (somewhere, dangit)! Thanks for the great comment.

Elizabeth McKenzie said...

Yes it's hard, isn't it. Unlike you, I love making revisions, too, too much. I habitually revise. The story never ends.

Good post, you did well.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I agree it's very important to set your stories aside for a while before revising them. And I really loved the humor in this post too.

Eric said...

Elizabeth - Unfortunately, ending the story is one of my problems. But I keep working on it. Maybe sometime I'll enjoy it like you do.

Sandra - I was really glad I set the story aside. I'm glad you got a laugh.

Tracy Edward Wymer said...

I begin every day by editing what I wrote the day before. This lets me look back at what I wrote with somewhat of an unbiased eye but more importantly it gets me back into the main character's voice and the story's flow. It works for me.

Note: When I finish writing, I rarely reread before shutting down for the day. I save that exercise for the next day. When I complete the first draft, I set it aside for a considerable time and then revise the entire draft once more before sending it to beta readers.

Hope this helps. Enjoying your blog, Eric.

Eric said...

Tracy - That's a really good idea that I may borrow. I do have to re-read what I've written before to get into the voice and story flow, as you say. Thanks for stopping by.

Shaun Hutchinson said...

Nice! Critiquing others really does help. Reading stuff that works and doesn't work has helped me more than I can every admit. And it's tough to see people rip your own work apart but it's invaluable.

Also, I have the toughest time with the internal editor like you do. It's that little voice in the back of my head going, "Nope, nope, not that word...do you really want to say that, there? No, no, go ahead. It's your book after all." If you find some way to shut him up, let me know :) Until then, I've found that music helps to muffle him.

Eric said...

Shaun - If you've managed to do it, I have hope. After all, I've seen the results of your work firsthand and it's awesome. You're right about one thing though. Music muffles the editor a bit.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Revisions are often easier than the first draft for me. I'm such a perfectionist that it's dificult to just let my brain just spill the thoughts without worry about the words, dialogue, excessive/incomplete details, etc. Once I get through the first draft, I find it's much easier to make those adjustments.
Okay, don't hate me or remove me from your Christmas card list!

Eric said...

Alex - See, being a perfectionist is the problem for me, which is why I have such trouble DOING revision. Don't worry, your card is comin' :)

Cole Gibsen said...

I agree with Shaun. It wasn't until I joined my critique group and started getting feedback that I learned HOW to revise. I also agree with Amanda, you're no newbie. Stop selling yourself short ;)

Kat Harris said...

It just sucks because everyone else seems so cool by comparison.

Boy, do we have you fooled. :-)

Eric said...

Cole - Ju' got it mang! No more newbie talk LOL. And thanks.

Kat - Nope, you have me awed. But that's okay because I learn so much :)

Sherrinda said...

I am a newbie with you. I absolutely am hating revisions...so much so that I quit. Hey, it is my first manuscript and riddled with problems. I'm learning though that if I am ever going to be a real writer, I am going to have to learn to revise. Yep. The hard work of writing. I like what Tracy said earlier...revise what you wrote the day before. I am going to try that! ;) Great post.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

I have to agree with Kat's comment - I totally am making this all up as I go along.

Michelle McLean said...

So true - you can learn so much from other people, it's just amazing. And yes, revisions are the devil LOL

Sarah Bromley said...

I really do believe that sometimes it takes having others be critical of your work for you to learn a lot about your writing style. After working with Cole and Amanda in a critique group, I can't begin to tell you how much better I became at revising my work. And I have to say, Sir, you're not allowed to call yourself a newbie any longer. :-)