Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Writer Wednesday: Revisions, Revisions - Surviving the Process

Writer Wednesday Revisions Revisions Surviving the Process
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Ah, the glorious revision process.  A writer’s dream… NOT!  Rarely easy, often hard, and always a little emotional.

But, it’s my baby!

Yup.  That’s exactly how it feels.  We created this wonderful first draft.  We poured our heart and soul into creating this story.  We’ve spent countless hours researching, dreaming, thinking, and writing and finally it’s done!  Right?  Wrong.  Far from it!

Just like a baby, now it needs to be shaped into an adult.  It will need correction, discipline, time-outs, and some cuddling too.  

My Revisions versus Your Revisions

Similar to any parent raising a child, we are going to make mistakes.  And when we do, we just might see our mistake and self-correct.  Then again, we might not.   Sometimes we are just too close!

I was able to revise my first draft a couple of times.  Then, it was time to get opinions from some friends of mine.  I got some great feedback!  Some I liked, some I didn’t.  The manuscript (along with a few of my friends!) went on time out.  Once I came back to it, I was able to be a little more objective and rewrite the story incorporating the feedback that seemed to fit well with my goals for the story.

Once again, it was time for a time out.  In the meantime, I thought, read, and researched.  When I came back, no surprise, I had more revisions of my own.

Finally the day came when I was ready to send it to a writing coach and get her feedback.

I’m not sure how I feel yet.  I can’t even read her changes yet.  Sure, I’ve met her and had a good impression of her, but do I know her?  Can I trust her?  Can I confidently take her advice?  I don’t know and won’t know until I look.  Once again, I need a little distance.  I know she restructured the story for a more logical flow and then she added in some of her thoughts and ideas.

It’s my baby!  I’m not sure I want her changes.  Even though I’m nervous, today is the day I will really look at those changes she made and try to be objective.  If I truly want my manuscript to be the best it can be, I need to be open-minded and as objective as I can be.  Then I need to process her input  and take what feels right to me.  

Revision is such an iterative process.  This may be the last of the revisions before sending it to a publisher, but maybe not.  I have plans to attend a critique group in the very near future and I’ll be putting my baby further out into the world again.  At some point, it will be “done” and I’ll need to truly send it off and then probably further refining as it is prepped for publication.  It's so exciting to think about!

Being Objective

Is there such a thing as being objective with your own creation?  Probably not.  But time and trying to look at the manuscript from different perspectives can help.  Getting lots of different opinions can help too.  At some point, though, you need to rely on yourself and your own opinions and get your manuscript to the best place possible before you ever submit it to a publisher.

What’s the Difference between Revising and Editing?

Revising has to do with the content and structure of the story and the use of language and words within the story.  You may need to rearrange, add, replace, or delete parts of your story.  You may need to further develop a character or a scene.  You may need to cut out or replace words, sentences, or entire paragraphs.  That is revision.

Editing comes later.  This is where you check grammar, punctuation, spelling, and the like.  You may change a word or two here and there, but most of that will have been done in the revision process.  This is when your dictionary, style manual, and word books will come out to put on the final polishing, pre-submission.

Tips for Revising

Give it time.  Remember the time out I mentioned above?
  1. Check length of manuscript. A picture book should generally be 32 pages.
  2. Read it through several times.
    1. First time, focus on the general flow and structure of the story
      1. Does the plot have a clear beginning, middle, and end?
      2. How is the pacing of the story?
      3. Is the setting and context consistent throughout?
      4. Is the point of view consistent?
      5. Does the opening hook the reader?
      6. Does the ending satisfy the reader?
      7. Have all problems been resolved?
    2. Read it again focusing on the characters and how they are behaving.  Check their dialog.
      1. Does each character have a distinct identity?
      2. Are they behaving as the age they are supposed to?
      3. Does the dialog sound natural?
      4. Is dialog carrying the story?
      5. Is the story told in active voice?
    3. Read it again for imagery
      1. Do the words paint concrete solid imagery?  Can you see it in your mind?
      2. What is the illustration potential?
      3. Is anything “dated”?  Can it be adjusted to make it “timeless”?
    4. Read it out loud and listen for rhythm and balance and any word play you may have been utilizing
      1. Eliminate any excess words
      2. Ensure that words are at the reading level you are aiming for
      3. Are tenses consistent?
  3. Check all your facts.
  4. Verify the length of book is still right - most picture books are 32 pages.
  5. Have others read it and offer suggestions.
    1. Friends, teachers, parents
    2. A critique group
    3. A writing coach or mentor
  6. Cull through all feedback and use the suggestions that make the manuscript the best it can be.  Try not to get defensive.  Remember, it isn’t necessary that something is wrong with your manuscript, it’s about helping something good become even better.

Final Test

Kids have the final say whether your book passes the test or not.  If kids don’t like it, then it still needs work!  

Read it to a group of kids that are unknown to you (preferably) such as at a preschool or a library.  Better yet, have another adult read it to a group of kids while you sit and observe.

  • Are the kids engaged?  
  • Do they seem to be enjoying the story or interacting with it in any way?  
  • What is their body language saying?  
    • Are they squirming?  
    • Are they yawning?  
    • Are they looking around?  
    • Are they leaning forward?  
    • What are their facial expressions?
  • Does their body language change during the story at all?  At what parts?
  • Did they ask any questions or make any comments?  What were they?
  • Did they ask to have it read again?
  • Were they talking about or acting out parts of the story afterwards?

Calling Uncle

It’s easy to get caught up in the revision process and feel like the end is never in sight.  Sometimes so many changes are made that the story no longer resembles the original idea.  Only you as the author can say if this is a good thing or not.  Perhaps it’s better or perhaps not...perhaps it’s just different.

You want to make your story the best it can be, but know when to call uncle.  Don’t get caught in an endless cycle of revisions fearing it will never be good enough to submit.

Own It!

Remember, in the end, this is YOUR story.  If you think it is the best that it can be, trust your instincts.  Find a publishing company, prepare your manuscript for submission and send it on in!!

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