The Joy of Revisions
Guest Blogger: Colleen Coble
(Bestselling author of over 40 books)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard you complaining about having to change your novel. I remember feeling the way you do once upon a time. But that was before I realized what a blessing it is to have another person devote such focus to my work. That was before I realized we authors are too close to our books to see them clearly.
I’ve come to enjoy the revision stage, and I wanted to share some thoughts on how you might enjoy it, too.
Revision letter arrives.
1. Dance! Shout out whoohoo! Do whatever it takes before you open it to have a great attitude. If you’re determined to make this a good experience, it will be much easier. Tell yourself there will be great things in there to make your book better.
2. Take down defenses. Realize that any criticism is meant to help not hurt.
3. Reinforcements have arrived! When I’m writing a book, I feel like a draft horse pulling a heavy wagon up a mountain by myself. When I get the revisions back, I’m suddenly assisted by another draft horse or two and we’re coasting down the mountain together toward a charming town in the distance. Allow yourself to brainstorm off the suggestions and see the possibilities.
Open the email and begin to read.
1. The Good. A little bit of sugar makes the medicine go down. Read the good things the editor had to say. Allow yourself to savor those, all the while knowing the medicine is coming. Linger over those passages.
2. The Bad: Now comes what didn’t work. Read through the entire list of things that need shoring up.
3. The Ugly: Often after reading a revision letter, you feel overwhelmed with all that needs to be done. But ugly as it looks, it’s possible to do this work in much less time than you imagined.
Gear up for the journey.
1. Read the letter again. Even a third time. I always miss some things. If you’re already excited about things, call your editor (or crit partner) and talk through some of the issues. If you’re not quite there yet, sleep on it. The next morning read it again and try to get excited. Try not to look at how much there is to do because it can be overwhelming.
2. Call your editor. Have the items up for discussion flagged. Then settle in for work.
Eat the elephant one bite at a time.
1. Print it out. Highlight important plot points that need changing and things the editor says don’t make sense.
2. Make the small changes. My editor usually has small inconsistencies marked by page number. I fix those little things because they are easier to find before I make major changes.
3. Tackle plot issues. I use Scrivener to write and I go back to my scene outline. Where can I drop in another scene or expand a current one that will allow me to fix those problems? Can I move a scene for more impact?
4. Layer in those character fixes: I get out 3 x 5 cards and write down character issues like Katie needs control: show. Or Hates glasses. Things that can be dropped into existing scenes easily. Also list scenes that need changing to more reflect who a character is.
5. Theme issues: Where can I layer in more thematic punch?
Finish what you started.
1. By now my print-out is a mishmash of highlights, checkmarks to indicate I took care of that problem and coffee stains. (Coffee is indispensable for editing!) Print it out again and read it with a fresh eye. Anything jump out at you that still needs fixing?
2. The editor has given you her best shot. But this is your chance to enhance your book even more. Often after we get those notes, we see the book in a whole new way. Love that about editing! So I always reread my character outlines. Has my character changed in my mind? If so, now is the time to enhance those changes with small tweaks in the inner and outer dialogue.
It’s over, right?
You pressed send and the job is done. Um, not so fast. Regardless of where you are in this process – if your revision memo was from your publisher or your agent – there will certainly be at least one more set of edits, the line edits, to come. This is where the editor actually
The revision process can be challenging, but I think it can be the most invigorating part of being a writer! If you like to learn, always becoming a better writer, then embrace the editing phase. No fear!
Best-selling author Colleen Coble’s newest book is The Lightkeeper’s Ball, just released from Thomas Nelson. Her novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, the ACFW Carol Award, the Romance Writers of America RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has nearly 2 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers and lives with her husband Dave in Indiana. She is represented by Karen Solem at Spencerhill Associates. Visit her website at http://www.colleencoble.com/.