Revision–Shannon Style (Part Five)

May 17th, 2011 | Blog Uncategorized


Okay, so if you missed part four last week (you can find it HERE), we're deep in the throes of “The Agent Stage” of my revision–which could basically be called: The-Really-In-Depth-Revision-Notes-Stage, so those of you without agents need not think this doesn't apply.

Laura is kind of famous for her LONG revision emails, so I do the bulk of my revising through her. But if you don't have an editorial agent, you should still have at least one CP who really puts your draft through the wringer (if you don't have one–find one. They will make you SUCH a better writer, even if they will *probably* give you an ulcer)

So…at this point…I have Laura's revision letter printed. And I've done a lot of STARING and WHIMPERING and STRESSING about the tremendous amount of work I have ahead of me.

Now it's time to pull myself from the depths of “I Sucktitude” and get started. And I do that by reminding myself that Laura wouldn't spend so much time giving me feedback if she didn't believe in the project–and if she didn't believe I was capable of nailing the revision. She's way too busy to waste her time on something she doesn't care about. So she knows I can do it. I just have to shove my self doubt away and dig in.

The same thing applies to you guys–even those of you without editorial agents. Thorough critiques take a LOT of time to give (believe me, I know. I spend 100s of hours on a draft for my CPs). So if a Crit Partner is giving you one, it's because they believe in you, and in your story, and are pushing you because they want to help you make the book as good as it can be. They KNOW you can do it. And they're there for you if you need help getting there.

Never doubt that. Never think: my book must suck. It DOESN'T suck. If it did, they'd probably give you only a few vague notes and something like: thanks for letting me read! Because who's going to spend tons of time on a project they hate?

Trust me, a thorough, intense critique from good, trusted CPs is never a bad thing. I know it's hard to believe sometimes (you're talking to a girl who's often tempted to email Laura back asking: why do you represent me when I need this much work?????) But remember, they believe in you. And they know you have the talent to pull it off.

So once I convince myself that I'm not the resident Queen of Hacksville, I'm to the point of: REREAD THE REVISION LETTER 10,000 TIMES THINKING HOW THE HECK AM I GOING TO DO THIS???


I know I CAN do it. I just need to figure out the HOW part.

In general, there are three main types of notes:

– Notes I completely agree with and know right away exactly what I need to do

– Notes I agree with, but don't know how to handle yet because I need to figure out a few things

– Notes I don't agree with at all
Now, you may be thinking that those last ones are notes I just cross off and put right out of my mind. To which I say, Ha–I wish. Because here's the thing: a note is more than just a note. Sure, there's the specific suggestion in the note, which may not work at ALL. But that doesn't mean I can ignore the underlying cause.

If I'm being told to cut a scene or a chapter, or to tweak a character's motivation or to have something different happen, THERE'S A REASON. Maybe my pacing is off. Maybe my character is reading inconsistent. Maybe I haven't made it clear enough why the scene is important. There could be any number of reasons I'm being given a note, and just because the suggestion doesn't work for me, doesn't mean I get to scratch that note off my list. There's always SOMETHING I need to tweak.
It may end up being a much smaller change than what the notes are suggesting. Or it may mean I make a big change, but it's completely different from what the notes recommended. Either way, it's okay–because I got to the root of the problem. 
And that's really what revision is all about. Problem solving. 
Good revision notes tear your book apart and make you ask yourself: is this what I wanted to do? Is this what I was trying to say? Is this really the way I see my story? And if it's not, you fix it. Clarify. Cut. Refine.
It's a painful, frustrating, headache inducing process. But in the end, you'll wind up with the book you thought your wrote the first time.
I'm sure I could keep rambling about revision for several more posts, but I think 5 posts is enough for this series. I'll tackle some of the minutia of revision (plot, pacing, etc) in their own, separate Shannon-Style series to come. 
If you have any questions on anything, feel free to ask away in the comments. And if not, I'd love to know: how to you deal with intense revision notes? Any tricks you want to share?

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