Thursday, May 29, 2008

Revision-O-Rama -- Robin

This past weekend, I wrote it: The End. Writing those two words makes me do back-handsprings and air-splits and handstands underwater. Well, it makes me want to do those things. (I have coordination issues.)

So instead, I settled for a frosty beverage and some Cheez-Its. Then I looked over my manuscript and realized two things:

1. It needs major revisions.
2. It kind of sucks.

Usually, a revelation like that would cause me to dig deeper into a box of Cheez-Its and pour another frosty beverage, but I finally figured out how to handle the revision part of this book. This is a totally new idea for me, so we’ll see if it works.

But first, let me share a wee bit of backstory (it’s very wee, I promise!). I came across a summary of the SCBWI Washington conference on someone’s blog and saw that an editor there had spoken on the topics of Plot, Theme, Character and Voice. Which, to me, sounded like a speech about Everything. But then I realized that those topics, in that order, are the layers of revisions I need to do!

First, I’ll go through and revise only for plot. I’ll make sure the main character gets from A to Z, and that the manner in which she gets from A to Z makes perfect sense. I’ll also make sure that the car which was lime green in chapter 1 is still lime green in chapter 24.

Second, I’ll go through and look just at theme. Now that I have a newly buffed and shiny plot, did my idea of ‘xyz’ (whatever that ends up being) come across as I wanted it to? Is it too subtle or way too heavy handed?

Third, I’ll go through and revise for character. I’m not sure what the editor was referring to in his speech, but for me, revising for character means I’ll look at all the other people in my main character’s life. I’ll try to make them well-rounded and avoid stereotypes. I might look at subplots and see if I can strengthen their stories. I want the people in her world to be as interesting as possible (but not annoyingly quirky) and deliver only some of the best punch lines.

And finally, I’ll go through and revise for voice. Now that my main character is propelling her way through a decent-ish plot, she has an interesting theme to wade through, and the characters around her are freakishly real (hopefully)…what the heck would she say and how would she say it!?!?

I’m not going to kid myself…all of this revision is going to take a long time.

So! My plan—for now—is that once I get to the voice-round of revision, I’m going to check myself into a lovely bed and breakfast and just focus on my main character and her words. I’ll only think about how she would react to each moment and just become her. I think I can do that if I’m away from my own world and don’t have to get up from my computer every five minutes to help my son clean up the Life cereal he dumped on himself (which is what I’ve been doing while writing this post).

This is a new way of approaching a novel for me, so let’s hope it works. And if it doesn’t? I’m moving on to the hard stuff…a good bottle of Pinot Noir and Rainbow Goldfish.

- Robin


Katie said...

Robin - I haven't read it fully but you should also check out Laini's blog today because she has a great post about her own revision process and it has photos!

Rachel Bird said...

Robin, that was so funny. "2. It kind of sucks." I know how you feel and I doubt that it sucks. We're so close to it when we finish. You give it some time, air it out and come back to it and realize that it was actually a masterpiece!

Does this crack you up too?

Disco Mermaids said...

Katie, yes Laini's blog was awesome today. She makes it all sound so easy.

And Rachel, that site is funny! I like the GPS Kitteh...


Joey said...

Hi Robin, I have two questions:

First, were they white chedder Cheez-Its?


Second, how can I go night-night feeling genius about my manuscript, then come morning, I feel the need to check my computer's history? Surely I could not have made these latest revisions.

Laini Taylor said...

Hi Robin! Ra ra for revisions! I'm serious -- I'm on a revision high right now. Had a great couple of days where my draft started to "snick" into place in such a thrilling way. And I think your plan sounds good -- I did hear the speech to which you refer, and in fact I think I said something in my talk at the same conference about how the great thing about writing is that it's not performance. It's not like ballet. You never have to get it right all the way through on one try. You don't have to point your toes until the final draft! I also kind of think of it like a tapestry with a lot of threads in it, and you can weave different threads on different passes, working here on plot and story arc, here on the development of a particular relationship between characters, etc.

Oh -- I just saw that you said over there that I make it sound "easy." That's funny, because just now somebody else asked in my comments, "Is it really this hard?" I find it incredibly hard, but just now, the hardness (er, I think the word I'm looking for is difficulty) feels like it's paying off. But then, it is a bejillionth draft!

Best of luck!!

Disco Mermaids said...

Joey-they were plain ol' cheddar. But white cheddar is certainly great for particular occasions. And I've definitely looked at my work with fresh eyes in the morning and thought "Who wrote THAT!?"

And Laini, I guess I'd say the way you go about your revision process is actually more *graceful* than anything. You have a plan and you work through it. You're my revision idol!!!


cynjay said...

I gained 75 pounds during my first pregnancy, mainly eating white cheddar Cheeze-Its. Apparently, though they are small, if you eat a box a day, you get fat. And no, the baby did not weigh 68 pounds.

Can I come to the B&B? I promise that we can get our own rooms to write and revise all day and only meet for frosty or sparkly beverages once every couple of hours to fortify our creative juices.

Disco Mermaids said...

Hey Cynjay--I gained 50 during my pregnancy, mainly due to grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate milk.
And sure, we could be B&B neighbors! I'll need a friend to take adult beverage breaks with. (And to tell me to get back to work!)


laurasalas said...

Hope you take a few more days to enjoy the great feeling of The End. And have fun with revisions--I love to revise one element at a time, even on shorter projects. With a novel (in my very limited experience) it's the only way for me to get the nerve up to start revising at all!