Friday, September 10, 2010

The Sounds of Revision

Revisions are hard work. Anyone who doesn't agree may need to get their head checked! I'm in the middle of revising my book, Parlor, and it's slow going. I've gotten to the point in about half of the chapters, where I've revised the stuff that just doesn't work out. That's the easy part! Now comes the hard, trying to make the words that remain better. I have trouble getting it to the sparkly point, but maybe I'm not alone.

This is where good critique partners come in. Each person reads a story a little different, offering small tidbits of amazing advice to push you to see your work in another way. I know both of my crit partners do an awesome job! Once they've read and given their notes, I go back to each chapter and revise again.

A few weeks ago, after my crit partners took their turn, I followed my usual steps. Read their notes, revised, read over the chapter and then fixed anything odd that didn't flow. I still felt like the chapter wasn't quite there, so I was a little down. I didn't know what it needed, but it was definitely not up to my standards for how much work I had put into it.

Normally, my husband doesn't read what I write until it's practically finished. I don't know why, but that's how it worked with my last book. I didn't let him see any of it until it was time for me to query. I had an idea recently and I can't even explain how helpful it was. I sent him the first chapter, asking him to just look over it and give his initial thoughts. I'm always nervous when he's reading something I've written, and this wasn't an exception. In fact, it was worse. I knew it wasn't very good, and like I said, he was used to reading my work in a pretty polished state.

I thought he would just tell me quickly what worked and what didn't, but he went above and beyond. We sat for three hours, breaking down each sentence. After about twenty minutes time, I was having trouble typing as quickly as he was talking, trying to get each little note down. Then we got the idea to record it! That's right, we audio taped the whole thing. It was amazing because I didn't miss a single thing we said and I was able to wait until Monday (we did this on a Saturday) to make changes based on our discussion. I could edit at my own speed and could just rewind when I needed to hear something a few times.

It was great because he reads enough YA to know what works, but also has a different viewpoint than myself or my crit partners. I would totally recommend talking through your work with someone and recording it for playback later. At least, if you can stomach having to listen to yourself talk for hours on end. Now THAT was harder than the revisions.


Anonymous said...

Revisions are hard! I have a pretty similar revision process to you (including the bit about my husband not reading anything until it's pretty much done). For me the best revision tool is usually time. I walk away from a project for a few weeks after each pass. Fresh eyes have always been my best tool.

Tami Klockau said...

Great suggestion Megan, and I totally agree. It's amazing what you can see in a chapter once you haven't started at it for days on end!