As Joanna mentioned, we recently heard back from my editor on revisions, but since we didn’t start this blog until after I’d turned them in and you missed all my whiny suffering, I thought I’d do a little time traveling and talk a little bit about what that process was like.

I’ll admit it: I don’t like revising. Some writers do. Sure, I think they’re liars, but that’s less because I don’t trust them to be honest and more because I can’t imagine that people actually like being told what they did wrong. Many of my fellow Tenners have been putting up locked posts lately that basically amount to, “Yay! I got my revision letter, time to rip this puppy apart!” To which I always respond (in my head, if not actually in the comments): WHAT?

However, revising is a necessary part of the writing life. I fully, fully understand the vital role that careful editing plays in the quality of my work, and I don’t believe I’m perfect or that I get everything right on the first try. Or the second. Or the third. I need just as much editing as any other writer, and I know that. I’m also grateful for all the patience and great feedback I’ve gotten from Joanna, Danielle, and Francoise on All Unquiet Things and I know the book is hugely better for it. It takes a village to raise a child.

Still, it’s hard for me. It’s probably my biggest obstacle, because the longer I’ve been working on a book, the more it seems to harden, and by the time you get to, oh, almost seven years of working on the same thing, it’s pretty much a block of stone to me. That’s the only way I can think to describe the feeling I have when I go to a manuscript I know by heart and start trying to add stuff to it. Carving out large portions for deletion is somehow fine with me, but adding? Do you add stone to a sculpture? (That was a rhetorical question, but if someone has an answer, by all means email me.)

The problem with that is that I’m always the writer people have to tell to add things, because I write skeletal first drafts. Maybe it’s because my novels are so plot-driven that I try to get the bones down–the mystery–and then layer on character later, so sometimes things get left out. After I’ve added the new scenes, of course, they feel like an organic and completely necessary part of the narrative and I can’t imagine being without them, but the process of adding new stuff is difficult for me to get my head around sometimes.

Take, for instance, this latest round of revisions. What I got from my editor was four pages of big-picture notes and a marked up manuscript with line edits. One of the comments in the letter was that there was a character who needed more fleshing out. My first thought was, “Ugh, this late in the game and I’m going to add new material? How am I going to make this blend seamlessly into the rest of the book?” But of course my editor was right, AUT really needed those scenes, and so I had to write them.

It’s not the writing I object to. I love writing! I relished doing the research I needed and taking notes, writing a new manifesto and downloading music for a new playlist. I liked imagining the new scenes and writing them. It’s the fitting them in that was tough. They threw off my chapter lengths, for one, and despite repeated tries I couldn’t really rearrange them in a way that seemed symmetrical (not that chapter lengths have to be symmetrical, but I like them to be reasonably similar lengths). Also, the writing seemed fresher (because it was), and therefore I was convinced it wasn’t as good, because it hadn’t been gone over a million times. Writers are neurotic! It’s not even a myth.

But, as Joanna said on Tuesday, everything seems to be fine. My editor gave the revisions the thumbs up, even though it looks like there will be more line edits, so it appears that what I’ve added, and how I’ve added it, and where and why, are working. Which is a big relief, because honestly it was very, very hard to let go of that manuscript. I was running on vapors and couldn’t think of one more thing to fix, but it felt like, shouldn’t I do more? But the thing is that you can edit something within an inch of its life and still probably continue to rearrange sentences and fix comma splices forever if you could only live so long. So. The revisions went in and I went on with…well, not a whole lot. I’ve been taking a bit of a break, but that’s for another post altogether, I think.

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