Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Winnowing of Post-its

This is the look of my manuscript in revisions.

You may know: I love revisions. This is the part of writing my brain can really cuddle up to. The safe part? In Not For Robots I have this bushwhacking metaphor: writing first drafts with a machete; unexplored jungle! Dangers! Beasties! Excitement! Extending that metaphor, revisions are like building a snug cottage in that jungle and setting out tea saucers of little biscuits for the monkeys. All civilized, like.

Well. You know. No exactly like that. But kinda.

So. Here in a nutshell is my revision process. First thing I did was read and internalize my editor's letter, make notes on the main areas of work she proposed, and then set about reading my (hard copy) manuscript over with those things in mind. I marked it up liberally, and then, once that was done, I took it to the computer and input any "easy" changes, those things that can be fixed right there locally, within a line or two. The bigger things, ideas, themes, I asterisked and post-it'ed for later. Later being now.

The REAL work of revisions. Not the line edits, but the reconstruction, the deepening of significance, tightening of threads, clarifying of characterization, all that. So I've got this fat old book bristling with post-its of how to make it better, and I have to winnow down those post-its, one by one, until they're all gone. Winnow winnow. Once they're all gone, then I'll read the whole thing fresh for flow and to catch anything I might have missed, and to futz happily with language until I run out of time, then I'll send it on in to my lovely editor and see what she thinks.

After that? Another pass. And then? Copy edits. And then?

Whew. On it goes until the very sight of one's own book triggers the gag reflex. It's sad, but by the time the book is in print, the author has read it to death and probably won't be able to enjoy it again for like twenty years. But that does not mean that holding it in its actual bookness is not the hugest thrill ever, because it IS. Just please don't make us read it again! Ha ha.

Anyway. In revisions, you should have a clear picture of what it was you were trying to do with the book (a thing you might not entirely know until you've finished that first draft). And then hopefully you can read your manuscript with some objectivity and get a clear picture of what you have actually accomplished. So. What needs to be done to bring the actual up to the ideal? That's what revisions are about. Perfecting. Realizing the promise of your idea.

Gotta go now. Post-its beckon!

Do you love revisions? Not love? Tell me!

19 comments:

Georgia said...

I seriously love post-its. I have a feeling I would enjoy revising when I get to that point, just because of the post-its.

Laini Taylor said...

Georgia, I KNOW. New office supplies have gotten me through many a dark spell :-)

Jo Treggiari said...

Love revising! which is one of the reasons I'm able to not obsess too much over my first draft. I know it might suck in parts but I also know I am going to fix it. Before I've even sent my mss to my agent I've usually revised at least 2 or 3 times, then another one after he reads it before it goes to my editor. And then the real revision work begins!

Talei said...

I enjoy it, once I read through the cringe-worthy scribblings of my first draft I actually find the revising quite entertaining. LOL.

Thanks for sharing your process with us. I love your comment that is about 'perfecting.' So true, so very true.

sharonwrote said...

I'm still loving the "never-beforeness" (and that term) of my current WIP, and will try to conjure that snug-cottage-tea-saucers-n-biscuits-for-monkeys feeling for revisions! Hah! Laini, your perspective on writing and life in general is always so refreshing.

a cat of impossible colour said...

I love revising! Am at exactly the same stage as you at the moment. But I am starting to repress the gag reflex already.

Becky Levine said...

I'm pretty sure I get more AHA! moments during revision than during the first draft, and I do love those moments. :)

Colene Murphy said...

Wow. This makes me feel so much better, knowing it doesn't make me horrible to want to gag thinking about having to reread my MS AGAIN. I love it but come on already! ^_^
Your process sounds terrifying and thrilling all at once. Having to make changes from your very own, real live, honest to goodness editor!

Meika said...

Post-its are my crack. Seriously. You should see my revisions! Covered in post-its!

Thanks for the peek inside your process!

RavenQuills said...

I think that, if you get into a good way of revising and well, WRITING, that works for you, writing can become a true joy. Which, thank goodness, it IS. I love reading your blog, by the way. It gives me hope and encouragement, so thank you. :]

Kayla Olson said...

Laini,

I love this post! This is partially because I love all things Post-It, and partially because I'm headed into yet another round of revision on my novel.

Your enthusiasm is so refreshing. I'm excited about revising, but my mind has been heavy with "What should I do?"s and "Oh, man, I need to fix that ASAP!"s lately. This post has helped relieve my mind of the weighty things, and it has reminded me of all the fun things. I firmly believe this hard work will be worth it, and am looking forward to all the winnowing I have ahead of me!

Thanks! Good luck with your winnowing, too!

:) Kayla Olson
(@olsonkayla)

Heido said...

Well, I haven't gotten to revisions because I'm still exploring my first draft, but when I get there I have the feeling I'll like them. Part of my reasoning is that I already luuuurve Post-its. They are great. So even if it turns out that I DON'T like revisions, hopefully I'll still be able to push myself through them for the sheer fact that Post-its will be involved. :)

Wow, I just read the rest of the comments and realized mine is just like the first one. Ah, well. It's so true. Long live Post-its!

ann foxlee said...

Oh, Post-its... my best friends from the first moments of jotting down ideas while I'm at work, to the fringe of tags telling me where I need to fix something later... oh how I love them :-)

It's great to hear a bit of your revision process, Laini! I'm diggin' in on the old WIP once more, and I actually came up with a new approach that is helping me slog through. I'm such a visual person, I found that printing it out and laying it all out physically is keeping me from thinking it's too big a tangle to um... untangle. :-) Hooray for revisions!

word verification: 'tativors' eaters of tattooed people?

jckandy said...

Oh My God.

Seriously, this was like a little breeze sent from heaven. this could not have come at a better time.

Granted, you didn't give out a ten-page step-by-step on revisions. But that wouldn't work anyways, because everyone revises differently.

THIS IS THE EXACT STAGE I AM AT NOW. And I've been avoiding and shuffling and not working on my book because, really... I didn't know what to do.

I now know that I need Post-Its.

Haha. I actually absorbed more from your post than that. But honestly, Laini, I'm bookmarking this post. THANK YOU EVER SO MUCH.

Jennie Bailey said...

Love love love revisions! I love building the foundation up. That feeling that I am making it stronger. And post-its. Oh, post-its. I color coordinated mine for my last rewrite. It was very pretty!

Catherine Denton said...

Like. I can't say I love them. Not yet. But I haven't used post-its. So maybe...

RavenQuills said...

D: I just realized that I haven't read Dreamdark yet!!!!! *pilfers through libraries and bookstores until she finds it*

--jenna said...

That picture inspired me. All this time, I've been trying to revise unsuccessfully on the computer. Ran down to the print shop, had my pages bound and dug out the post-it notes. Have gotten more done in one day than I've accomplished in 3 months! Ooh, feels good to excise, trim, reword...
Thanks for being the catalyst!

Cem said...

I am really very much curious about 'Why dont you use a damn computer'?