We now return you to our regularly scheduled program! :)
"REVISE AND RE-SUBMIT"
“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” — Mark Twain
I spewed the first time I read this because it's so stinkin' true.
Hi, my name's Ruthy and I am learning to revise. Yes, I'm like 30 books in, and I'm still learning to hone my craft.
Newsflash: I consider that a SMART THING because you know what happens when we start resting on our laurels? We're likely to get thorns in the bootie. So here's what I know:
Re-writes and revisions are not the enemy. Once you get over the bitter disappointment of fallibility and realize that while Harper Lee wrote one literary masterpiece, it took her 2 1/2 YEARS to re-write the book in publishable form. And that was after having a full year off (funded by friends) to write the original!
I know writers who fuss and fume if asked to reconstruct or readjust time lines... (looks guiltily away from camera) but in the end, the book is better!
In order to effectively revise your manuscript, you need to separate two things:
1. Your emotional ties to the best story ever created...
(Wincing, here, because really????? REALLY???????? Get over it and move on, we're grown-ups, aren't we?)
2. And your original version that is now engraved in your brain.
The first is fairly easy. If you need help, e-mail me and I'll give you the kick in the pants you need and (Bonus!!!!) I'll tell you to get on with it and stop acting like a big ol' baby. (I tell myself this very same stuff, so we're in this together!)
(This is Joe Williams, our Tlingit Indian guide in Ketchikan, Alaska who gave me lots of details about the town, the history and the setting, including a possible idea for a historical/contemporary pair of books!)
The second is what we're talkin' 'bout today. How to take a book that's concrete in your brain, and reconstruct it:
1. Make a plan. What are you keeping of the original book? What will you delete? If the suspense thread isn't working, did an editor make suggestions? If the romance is dragging, how can you pick up the pacing? Did the editor offer advice about how to fix your sagging middle?
How can you implement these? I usually give myself a day or two to work my head around these suggestions, to re-visualize (I'm a visual writer, I see scenes, and then I write them) and then see how things can be connected. It's clutch for me to go into the revision/rewrite with a plan. If I don't, I make more work for myself. Note to everyone: I DON'T NEED MORE WORK. (Thank you, just wanted to get that off my chest!)
2. Determine which major threads are being tossed, if any. If none, this will be easier, but then that would be more like an edit, not a revision. And for a revision to work, you start at the beginning, examining every sentence and word for anything that will throw your new baby off-track. References and implications from the original story might not flow with the revised edition. So I look at the opening... If the opening works, BONUS! SWEET! PARTY!!!
Because then you can feel like you've accomplished something by doing pretty much nothing! But if it doesn't, then rewriting the beginning is the Most Fun Ever. I love writing openings, and by doing that, you've started the revision process mentally, physically and emotionally. By the time you are done writing the new opening, you've re-invested yourself in the story! It's amazing how an author's brain works.
Did the editor/contest judge/agent make a suggestion? Well, dust off your ego and try it, for pity's sake.
You've got nothing to lose and writing is a practiced art. If you're targeting a particular editor/line/publisher, listen to what they say. Read what they've published recently. And if this is from a contest or a submission, etc., and you've been asked to revise and re-submit, please note that this is better than an invitation to the Queen's Ball.
Editors are crazy busy. If they didn't like it, they'd have sent a "not for us at this time" form rejection. An R&R is a Huge Invite to the Royal Wedding. It's not given out lightly and should never be ignored. By ignoring it, you're sending a silent message that you're unwilling to change and adjust per request (AARRGGGHHHH... this is a bad message to send, my pretties!) or that you don't have the time to take suggestions and put them to work...( ouch, again, because it takes time to forge a new career or polish an old one!) or that you don't like being bossed around, and your work is good enough, as is.
That silence can be deafening and editors are smart, savvy people.
"If it sounds like writing, I re-write it." Elmore Leonard
3. Start inserting your new plotlines into the story. This always seems tricky at first, because it can be tedious... but then you might get to a whole chapter that needs nothing, and you fist-pump the air!
Work chapter by chapter to catch old threads and delete them... and to create new in their place. Don't worry about perfection here, worry about re-designing your story. We clean this up in the final read-through, picture darning socks, or better yet, cleaning the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Rewriting a book is easy by comparison!!!
Do not be afraid to delete. I keep an open word document for deleted scenes, just in case I decide to use them again. I rarely do because they were written for a different book... but I find that I'm a little less nervous if I hold them in a spare file while I work! (kind of like a kid and her blankie... We're so needy!)
4. Work steadily. If you take long breaks, you lose the mental "new" thread. Force yourself (discipline!!!!) to go through the book, chapter by chapter and insert the changes. I often use a mini-reward system to get me through this. Gardening time in summer... baking time in winter... a handful of M&M's .... a chance to watch Castle... Mini-rewards are my way of logging progress.
5. Once done, you want to now go back and re-read everything. I usually give myself a day or two off here, to work on something else and clear my brain. Then I come back fresh. The longer you take to revise a book or a proposal, the harder it is.
I'm going to repeat that last line, in bold: THE LONGER YOU TAKE TO REVISE OR REWRITE A PROPOSAL OR BOOK, THE HARDER IT IS.
Letting half of a fixed story vegetate allows us to let the original story infiltrate our defenses! :) It makes the whole process lengthier and more difficult than it needs to be. If you grab hold with a plan and push through, your chances of a successful and less painful revision are much higher... and you will be nicer to your family and have less gas.
(I'm not sure about that last claim, but an un-nervous tummy should produce less gas. I'm just sayin'...)
(Commercial Interruption, more Alaska pictures!)
|Dave and his new BFF|
|Mendenhall Glacier, the one we could get closest too, but there are monster glaciers in mountain valleys all over. A-stinkin'-mazing!|
I've just come back from an Alaskan cruise, a gift to us from our kids (Yes, Show Your Children This Line and Make Them Feel Guilty) so I'm bringing Alaskan-inspired goodies to the table. And new story ideas!
|We took an excursion into the Klondike up a fun and VERY SCARY TRAIN. I loved it!!!! :)|
Come on inside, leave a comment and I'll toss your name into the cat dish for one of several copies of "Healing the Lawman's Heart", a story of love and loss, faith and hope.
With cute kids, a tough heroine and a wonderful state trooper hero who just wins your heart...
This book is on sale NOW!!!! It was released yesterday, e-versions go on sale June 1, 2015... So if you don't win it, of course I want you to go buy it! You sillies! :)
When she isn't touring Alaska and central Washington, Ruthy Logan Herne is living her dream of writing sweet stories for traditional publishers and the indie market. She loves God, her family, coffee, chocolate and dogs, she thinks romance rocks. She's been married for a very long time, she lives on a farm in upstate New York, has a lot of kids and grandkids and thinks her crazy busy lifestyle suits her. She's thrilled to be paid for making up stories and regularly pinches herself to see if she's dreaming! Find her on the web at Ruthy's Website or on facebook as ... um... Ruth Logan Herne. (laughing!) And yes, send her a friend request, she'd love to get to know you, chat with you, pray with you and be your friend!