Blog Chain! The Revision Mill–Yes, It’s Grinding and Slow, Just As the Name Implies

Go to fullsize image The talented Sarah Bromley started this round of the blog chain. Be sure to check out her blog and congratulate her on her recent success of signing with an agent–so exciting! CONGRATS, Sarah! Woot!!!!

Her question:

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?

You can read Sarah’s response here. And check out Michelle’s blog tomorrow for another writer’s take on the subject.

For me, this question is quite timely. I spent the past seven months revising a manuscript I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2009. Because of numerous revisions, that thing doesn’t look ANYTHING like it used to. For realz. And I owe a HUGE thanks to all the betas who offered EXCELLENT advice! I humbly bow down to you ladies.

So what have I learned from the process? I’ve completely overhauled my approach to writing. Instead of gushing a story as fast as I can (I’ve written a novel in two weeks time x2), I am more mindful of what I write, where the plot goes, and how the characters respond to each other and their surroundings. I pay more attention to logistical details, motion, senses, and emotions. I TAKE THE TIME to enjoy the PROCESS of refining my ART.

Honestly, I did none of those things before. * blushes *

How did the revision process lead to such changes? Well, it was INCREDIBLY PAINFUL starting over every couple of months, breaking down my novel chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word by word. (Yes, people, it was that intense.) I NEVER want to stumble and plod around like that again.

Don’t get me wrong. I am prepared to revise and hack my writing to bits if need be, but I figure if I try to take care of some things (like lost story arcs, plot holes, and wonky dialogue) as I go along, it’ll make later pass throughs smoother. (I hope!)

The creative bug bit me a few weeks ago and I am well into a new novel (more than 50%, I’d say). This time, I’m focusing on AUTHENTICITY, TENSION, CLEAN WRITING, and making my protagonist AND antagonist WELL-ROUNDED and THREE-DIMENSIONAL.

As far as the logistics go, I do revise what I’ve written the day before, smoothing tics here and there before I move on to the next chapter. If there’s a snag, I want it fixed before it turns into a tear. When I’m done with the draft, I’ll read it again, fix the things I can, and then send it to betas. While it’s out and away, I will do my best to leave it alone, give it some space, and then tackle it again, incorporating the feedback I’ve gotten.

There ya have it, folks. My work at the revision mill. How’s your experience with revising? Is it your friend or foe?

14 comments on “Blog Chain! The Revision Mill–Yes, It’s Grinding and Slow, Just As the Name Implies

  1. AlexJ says:

    I don’t mind revisions. I usually write the entire story first and then go back through and make changes. Once I feel it’s ready, I let my test readers at it and make even more revisions.
    Glad you got through yours!

  2. Great answer, Laura! It sounds like you’ve made some real strides with your writing in the last year. Judging from what I’ve read so far, I think you do a damn good job both writing and revising.

  3. Lynn Rush says:

    I love revisions. But I don’t do them until I have the whole story done then set it aside for a few weeks. Then I go back to it and revise…several times. Then, off to a crit partner…then, a few more read throughs and revisions and set it aside for the agent. She’ll review it and then suggest things if needed. 🙂

    Great post.

  4. I’m like you; I like to revise what I wrote the day before first, then start writing. It helps me get back into the right frame of mind for the story.

  5. cole gibsen says:

    That’s exactly how I do it! 🙂

  6. Lydia Kang says:

    High five, Laura! I’m doing the same thing. I’ve had to revise, practically tearing my MS to shreds to get it right. This time around, I’m doing a very similar thing, although I’m using the plotting/outlining method. I hope it works. And how exciting that you are over 50% done your first draft!

  7. I go through layers and layers of revisions. You’d think I was building a wedding cake. First I edit yesterday’s work, then the whole last chapter before starting a new one.

    After I finish the first draft, I let it rest a week before running through it again. When I’m happy, I send it off to my beta readers, and contemplate/fix their suggestions.

    And finally I send it off to my crit group. At that point I have lots of revisions to make. 🙂

    I’m looking forward to needing to make agent and editor revisions, but I’m not at that point yet. Le sigh.

  8. Great post! I totally agree that taking the writing process slow can mean less to revise when you’re finished! I’ve blown out novels in three months, others in six. But I think when I took my time and was mindful of the writing, the revisions were less drastic.

  9. Christine Fonseca says:

    Great post – our overall process is really similar. And BTW – can’t wait to read your newest creation.

  10. I love that you have specific things that you are focusing on right now in writing a first draft – that is a really cool technique to try and cut down on mucho revisions later on. For me, now matter how much I try to pre-plan I always end up revising a ton more than I might have first intended.

  11. This is a good approach! Seems like you do a little at a time and it’s so good that works for you.

  12. This sounds like a great method. Finding your method is the hard part I think, but once you have it (even a rough idea of it), things go much smoother. Nice post.

  13. My revision process is a fickle thing LOL sometimes friend, sometimes foe. I have noticed that the more novels I finish, the more attention I pay in the first draft stage to what I write. This is both good and bad. Sometimes it blocks me because I spend so much time trying to find the exact right word that I end up writing nothing.

    I’ll be interested to see how my new book makes it through my crit partners. I’ve learned so much from past mistakes – hopefully I put most of it into practice – if I did, my revision process will be a much smoother, and hopefully less time consuming, activity 🙂

  14. kat says:

    I’ve learned not to fear the process of hacking and chopping. It’s best not to grow too attached to certain scenes/ characters in the first round.

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