Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Thoughts on Revisions

Here are some things I've learned to do when working on revisions:

Pretend like someone else wrote it.

If you can detatch from your manuscript and look at it with the cool eyes of a stranger, you'll be more able to do what needs to be done. Don't let yourself remember the joy and pain of creating that particular character or chapter. You're the calm, cool stranger reading this book for the first time. Even better: you're like the scary mercenary that gets hired in a movie when a hit goes wrong, like Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction, the one that can fix anything. Yeah, that's you, the scary mercenary who can fix anything -- and isn't going to get all weepy and mopey about it.

Be willing to change anything. Anything.

Don't cling. You're not married to that first draft. That first draft is more like a first date, and you get to go on lots more dates before you decide whether you're going to marry it. (I realize now this is not a good metaphor. I am not advocating you try to fix the people you date and turn them into your perfect mate. It doesn't work with people. But it does work with manuscripts. Yay!)

Remember: your book can get better. And better. And better.

It's unlikely your first idea is the best possible idea for any given situation. Revisions are an opportunity to take a raw thing and make it SO. MUCH. BETTER. Don't just fiddle around with the sentences as you've written them. Cast your mind out wide for any new ideas that might make your story more exciting, more beautiful, more whatever. Be willing to rewrite A LOT, to cut whole chapters and write whole new chapters.

A quote:

"It is discouraging to try to penetrate a mind like yours. You ought to get it out and dance on it. That would take some of the rigidity out of it." -- Mark Twain

Love that. Dance on your mind. Go forth and revise.

Oh yeah, and:

"It is never too late -- in fiction or in life -- to revise." -- Nancy Thayer


rilla jaggia said...

Hey Laini,
great points on revising. It's always so much easier to edit someone else's work well. So the idea of pretending your work is someone else's is a great tip. Speaking of revising, will you be at the LA conference this year? Hope to see you there. I've signed up for Julie S-G's masterclass on revising and hope to take a bookload of notes ;)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I needed that :-).

Amber said...

Those last words could not be more true.


Amber Lough said...

Good luck, Laini!

Elizabeth said...

You know I needed to read this today. I am taking a day off writing because I know my next step is to go back to everything I've written so far and tear it apart. sigh. I will be detached like a jaguar on a kill.

jenn said...

Thanks for sharing this, Laini! I'm working on revising my novel and your blog and the essays you've posted on Not For Robots have been such a help and inspiration to me. I have a question: How do you approach a revision? You have your editorial letter or notes on what you want/need to change, how do you jump in and start? Do you just start on page 1 and work through? Make a To Do list and jump around the ms? I guess I'm curious about the mental organization that goes into revising because I feel like I'm all over the place with mine. I'm especially curious how you're tackling revisions with Silksinger because you described it on Not For Robots as a book with too many ideas and a lot of characters that you are trying to do a lot with, and that is how I feel about my book too. Anyway, sorry for the long comment! If you have any thoughts to share on this, I'd really appreciate hearing them.


Anonymous said...

Love the quotes - and the advice.

Stephanie Perkins said...

That Nancy Thayer quote is one of my favorites! And thank you for reminding me to cut chapters & write NEW ones. This is So. Hard. I'm struggling with one right now (It's just, well, BORING I've realized. Ouch!). I'll ask Harvey Keitel to attack it tonight.

A writing teacher I once had often reminded our class to break down the word: RE-VISION. To look at our work again in a new way, to have a NEW vision for it.

And it sounds like your revisions are going great (well, you sound so positive here, I assume). YAY! Good for you and good luck!!

Kim G. said...

Yay - keep working. Natalie and I can't wait to read both! Great words of advise! So excited to read about all that is good in your life - your vacation, work, the conference. Sweet blessings for a gal who deserves it!

Patry Francis said...

What I hear here is a truly joyful approach to writing and revision and life. You mean it can actually be FUN?

Sending love to you, Laini.

Sustenance Scout said...

Such a tongue-in-cheek comment from Ms. Patry, the original queen of the joyful approach! These pointers are very helpful, Laini, and timely for me. My favorite: pretend someone else wrote it. K.