Monday, July 8, 2013

The Revising Process

So, I've begun the arduous task of revising book two. It's already been more of a trial than revising book one. It's a fat manuscript at about 130,000 words, which is about 20k more than the first book, maybe 10-15k more than the third. I was so determined to beat the "second book syndrome" that I finished the last word, looked at the word count, and went, "Oops."

Of course, more words =/= a better book, it's just that book two has a lot of feelings.

Anyway, a lot of what I've done so far is clip unnecessary words and phrases, and also passages between characters that don't carry their weight (as in further plot or character development). Often, that means striking out some of my favorite lines. Waaah. It's so hard.

But I've also added a whole new scene after Victoria and I workshopped a couple of characters and discovered new things about their pasts. This really changed their dynamic, and while I'm adding clincher details to other characters, I ended up adding another (albeit small) chapter altogether. I reeeally don't want to push the word count (130k is about the size of "The City of Bones") since it makes the paperback more expensive, but necessary scenes are necessary.

The strangest thing about it is that, after I finish revising a chapter, I'm already looking forward to going back and editing it again, mainly because I don't feel confident about what I've left behind, like I can still make it better.

Well, I guess it's not so strange.

It sort of happens with every revision I do, but this has been the hardest book so far to revise. I spent eight straight hours revising yesterday, and on top of the previous couple of days I spent revising, I'm only on chapter nine. Ugh. Though, chapter nine is a reeeeally good chapter, I won't lie.

A thing that helps though is that I've endured the revising process many, many times, and the practice helps me identify problems better and how to fix them. It's also helped to develop my writing. Revising teaches writers what's working and what's not working, which is why it's so important to take it seriously.

It's also important to treat writing and revising as two separate things, even if they're tied together. It's like work versus school -- one puts the words down, the other teaches what the words do. It's best not to do your schoolwork at work, but sometimes, you just gotta, and that's okay too. Just make sure that the schoolwork doesn't interfere with productivity.

Book two is now 31 chapters, and, with the addition of a new chapter, that technically puts me on 10. That means I'm a third of the way through. Not bad in three days, I guess. But if I have to have another six days of eight hours, I may, well, cry.

Here are my tips on how to get into revising:

  1. Take care of primary needs. This means I’ve eaten, because food in my belly keeps my energy up and focused, and whenever my thinking power starts to wane, I know I need to eat again and I do so as soon as I can. Anything else I might need (such as tissues or snacks) I make sure is within arm’s reach of me.
  2. Take care of ritual needs. For me, this means I go through my dashboard first, make my tea, detox for a bit, do some blog work and cross a few to-do’s off my list, perhaps go for a walk, and then begin rereading where I last left off. A set pattern that I follow makes it easier for me to get into working mode.
  3. Listen to a few songs that pump me up. Upbeat songs get my creative powers focused, but the key is that I can’t be scrolling Tumblr or reading something else simultaneously. I have to listen to a few songs, let myself think only about my story, and become fully immersed and invested. This helps create a driving need to work on it.
  4. Revise in solitude. When I write, I write to music. When I revise, it’s more like library time. I need to be able to hear my story without the music, to see it clearly and without any influence that music gives. If I don’t have absolute quiet, I keep my headphones on to block out noise. If my street’s particularly noisy, I have rain, or white noise to block out distracting noise.
  5. Seven minutes of uninterrupted focus. The first few minutes are agonizing, torturous, and I writhe and resist and only by the sheer force of will am I able to press on. But after those first few minutes, I completely switch on and go with great speed.

Revising can be fun, but it's work. If you start to burn yourself out, take a break. I prefer to do all my revising at once so that the whole book is still clear in my brain, which means I can edit something in chapter 10 and go back into chapter three to fix something tied to it. But, if I feel I'm losing too many sanity points, I'll take a day to unwind. The work will still be there when I come back.

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