Revising The Revisions

I’m sitting here, everything is in the proper place, my Erotica short is pulled up on the laptop…

…and I’m not touching it. (No pun intended.) I’m really distracted by the music playing, and I’m mostly over here singing along and dancing in my seat. *sighs* It’s just one of those days I suppose.

Except, it really isn’t one of those days. I’m procrastinating on purpose and I know it. The music wouldn’t be on if I wasn’t. The Erotica short I’m working on needs some revisions and I’m putting them off. One thing has lead to another in my scattered brain, and I no longer want to revise. I want to ramble about revising.

Hey, it’s better than nothing.

“Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.” ― Michael Crichton

When I saw that quote by Crichton a few months ago, all I could was nod my head and smile. Show me a writer that has successfully published and  sold the first draft of their manuscript. Please. I’d love to meet them. Revisions are a necessary evil in our world. Like it or not, we need them in the  writing process.

Writers are asked many questions about what we do and why we do it. Their curiosity leads them to question us about every aspect of the writing process, revisions are no exception. They want to understand why it takes so long to write a novel sometimes. The time spent and amount of revisions/edits done varies from one writer (and one story) to the next. So, what can we tell them to make them understand us? Let’s find out.

Do you get dizzy going in so many circles?

A little bit, but it’s worth it.

While I’m spinning, I’m learning and improving. Not only my story, but my writing in general, is being improved (at least I hope so) with every revision I make. When the initial writing stage is complete, it’s like a breath of fresh air. We’ve accomplished our goal and finished the story that needed to be told.

Then the butchering begins. I adore the butchering. Not every writer will have the same process, obviously, when it comes to revisions/edits, but it may look something like this: (1) read through the manuscript, remove what isn’t necessary to the story, mark grammar/punctuation issues, etc. (2) make the changes….. (3) then do it all again.

This can be done once or a million times. The process will be complete when the writer feels that they can do nothing more to make the story better on their own. They’re now ready for outside opinions.

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How do you know you’re receiving the proper feedback?

Writers never know how people are going to react to their work. Some will love it, some will hate it. We generally receive conflicting feedback because everyone has different preferences and dislikes when they read a book. Writers have to choose what to take from that information to make our stories better. The only feedback we don’t want, because it helps us not at all, is “I loved it!” or “It sucked!”.

–cue the crickets chirping–

That’s it? That’s all you have for me? Mmmk, thanks.

We are appreciative when people are willing to beta for us, but we need information from them in order to improve the story. (Granted, there are writers who don’t want/can’t take criticism and only want praise for the greatest novel ever written. They are a pain to beta for….to put it mildly.) Bottom line, we need to know what worked and what didn’t for each beta reader we have.

From this information, best if received from multiple sources, we choose what changes to make to the manuscript. The choice is different for every writer and for every story. We’re never going to use all of the feedback we get. It would be impossible to do that. There’s always going to be one person that didn’t like this or that, but another that did. So, we decide which changes are best for the story and go from there.

“Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing.” – Bernard Malamud

How can you be sure you’re making the right changes?

The right changes? Hmmm, it depends on how you look at it. As I said above, people have different opinions. Writers make changes in their stories to ensure the flow is consistent. We don’t want our readers halfway into our book to suddenly become bored or disinterested. We want to make sure the reader cares about what happens to the MC(s).

We never know if the changes we’re making are going to work for the overall story. That’s why we have this process. Once the changes are made we can go back and read it again to see how it works. If it doesn’t, more changes will be made until we feel it’s finally right.

Why bother making changes now when you know you’re going to be doing it at some point down the road?

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I’ve heard this question multiple times. Frankly, I start twitching when it’s asked. Nobody’s ever going to consider publishing your story if you send them an unpolished copy. Rejected. Yes, you will undoubtedly be asked to make some changes to the story once it hits the publisher’s desk. Let the butchering begin…again. That being said, writers who are serious about publication aren’t going to send an unfinished copy of a manuscript out. At least, they shouldn’t. As I said before, changes are unavoidable.

It doesn’t matter to us that we’ll have to go through all of this again later. We plod through the revision/edits stage to polish our story to the best of our ability. Why? Because we care about what we’re doing and want to make it as good as possible.

Don’t you want to be done with it all already?!

No — no I don’t.

I mentioned in a recent post that I think writing a novel is like reading a good book. When I’m reading a new book, I don’t want it to end. The same holds true for when I’m writing. I want to go on writing/reading about these people until I get tired of them. When that will be, nobody knows. (I will say that, eventually, I do let go and decide that there’s nothing more I can do for the story. It’s now ready for submission and all I can do is hope for the best.)

Letting the characters look through my eyes while we dissect every word, every twist and turn, delves me deeper into their minds and their worlds. I learn things about them I didn’t know before. I become more familiar with their personalities and how they react to certain situations. I need this to happen, I don’t know about other writers, but for me this is a must. If I’m going through revising and editing and I don’t feel like I’m learning more about the characters/places I write about, then I’m not fully invested in the story. I should be. When this happens, that particular manuscript is set to the side for a little while. Eventually, I will come back to it and try again.

Whether you love it or hate it, the revision/editing process is a must if you want your novel to be as well written as possible. It doens’t take every writer the same amount of time or revisions before they decide it’s right. Hopefully though, after all of the struggling and rearranging, we’ll have made something that turns out to be better than we initially imagined.

“Throw up in your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.” – Raymond Chandler

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