Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Revision, Ishta Style

It's a Tuesday post, guys! And you know what that means: it means there's a lot to talk about this week!

First up, revision.

I actually love revision. It's where the real crafting of a story happens. The shiny new idea stage is lovely too, of course, but then when you're sitting there banging out your rough draft, the reality of how much work it's going to take to make this idea publishable sinks in and things start to feel a little tedious after a while. But revision! That's the good part.

So, with the SCBWI Winter Conference a mere 3 days away, here are my top tips on revision.

First, if you don't have a critique partner or group (or both), for the love of print, get one. No-one can critique your work better than someone other than you and your friends/relatives/fan club. And listen to them. Don't change everything - that gets complicated when you get differing opinions - but definitely give each point due consideration and really think about what will be best for your story. You can find crit partners in the Verla Kay forums, on the SCBWI forums, and in many other places.

Second, assuming you do have crit buddies, know this before you send your work to them: if there's something about your work that you're wondering if you need to change, you probably do. In other words, don't waste a critique opportunity confirming what you already know. If it's niggling at you, if you're not really sure, or even if you flat out know you need to fix it, take care of it before your critters see it. Use them for when you really can't think of a way to improve, or for when you know you need to change something but can't for the life of you figure out what it is. But don't think you can get away with leaving something in there that you kinda-sorta aren't quite sure about. Because that's the stuff of form rejections.

Third, don't be afraid to try everything. When I have ideas for three or more versions of the same moment and I can't figure out which one is better, I write them all. Then, I print them and lay them out and compare them. Which brings me to:

Fourth, which is that sometimes you just need to see it in print. Even though it's good to save paper, sometimes, if you're like me, saving those trees happens at the expense of making your story as good as it should be. Print on both sides if you have to, but don't be afraid to print it when you need to get that sense of pacing or flow.

Fifth, revision actually starts in the drafting stage for me. I never turn off my internal editor. I let her talk as much as she wants, and whenever she talks, I show her I'm listening by making a note on the side or in the body of my MS in italics. We have a mutual respect for each other, and a collaborative relationship. (Which might be just a little unhealthy, since my internal editor is basically me and I'm talking as if it's someone else, but... I write books. You write books. I'm sure I'm not alone in this. We can be crazy together, right?)

And finally, my sixth tip: when all else fails, take a shower. Or a nap. Or a walk. But get away from it. When you're in the depths of revision, and you hit that wall, try turning off the computer and letting your mind rest for  an hour or so. You'd be surprised how refreshed you'll feel when you come back to it.

How about you? What's your top revision tip?


  1. You've inspired me. I like the tip to try everything. Sometimes I think if I start messing with chapters, characters, etc, my changes have to stay, which is, of course, not true. Have fun at SCWBI.

  2. great to know! have fun at scbwi, share your notes!

  3. Same here, crit buddy! Sometimes I don't "see" the problem until I "hear" the problem by reading the story out loud.

  4. I actually like revision too. It's when my mess starts to take shape.

  5. Great tips. Have fun at the conference and be sure to share what you learn. Hope you make great connections.

  6. Great tips. I wish I'd listened to that voice way back when - when it told about a plot hole. I ignored it and now i'm doing a total rewrite!

  7. Tip: if there's something you've written you really like, and you can't bear to kill it but it really doesn't belong in your piece, copy it to a fresh document and use it somewhere else. Or tell yourself you'll use it somewhere else.

  8. I tried to save paper for months a while back and my editing suffered. Hubby argued that young replacement trees were better anyway. Have a great time!