About Revision (aka. How I Survived 8 Major Revisions)

Thanks everyone for the congrats on the book deal. :) It is very, very exciting. :) :) :) I also have a new website---check it out!!! It matches my blog. I like matching. :)

Over the weekend, I had a writer DM me on Twitter, asking about how I revised so many times. She said she was working on a current revision and was a little overwhelmed. So it got me thinking, and I made a list about revising.

1. A lot of trial and error. 
You try something; it doesn't work. You try something new; it may or may no work. You try something else; you see what happens. It's so much try and fail, but the great thing is that when you get it right then YOU GET IT RIGHT.

2. A lot of frustration. 
Trial and error is exhausting. Redoing over and over is really frustrating—especially when you there’s an answer!!! (All of my revisions were structural problems, at least in the early stage, so that was the hardest because I was always rewriting the entire book.)

3. Amazing CPs and beta readers.
People in your corner who will read and re-read and re-re-re-re-re-read your book. People who will challenge you, be honest, encourage, and brainstorm. They are THE BEST. I’m pretty positive that I wouldn’t have survived without them.

4. The fact that I KNEW I could do it, I just had to figure out how. 
That’s pretty much it. I loved my characters, my story; it was a really important to me to get it right. I wanted to give them the best, so I kept at it.

5. Always finding new, little things to love. 
After a while, things get old. You get tired. (Very tired!) And you need to find new things about the book to love. Maybe a character that you get to develop more, or a scene that never leaves the book. (In my finished draft, I seriously have TEN scenes that have been in every draft. That’s it.) These are things you can cling to. (Stephanie Perkins wrote a post about “Love Lists” where you list all the things you love about your MS. I have those for every project and I look it at a lot.)

6. Continuously discovering things--and always trying to. 
The great thing about revision is that the story is always changing. You should always, always be learning new things about your characters or your setting or something. Going into each revision seeking out those new discoveries make it fun. (Just in this last revision I learned something about my MC that I had no idea happened—not in two years!! I never would have guessed it and it was perfect.)

7. Knowing it is okay to take your time. 
DON’T BE IN A HURRY. I’ve learned from experience that when you rush it only slows you down. You have to have focus and tackle it one scene (or one large picture area) at a time. Realize you’ll have to change A LOT of stuff to make it work, and develop the story. Think about things before you commit. (And if you’re on R&R then know that the R&R isn’t going to go away—I had an agent wait two years! And though she didn’t take it, she still loved it and praised my revisions.)

8. Setting goals.
Take it day-by-day or week-by-week. Be realistic. Have a plan when you sit down to revise that today I am going to fix A or B or write x number of words. And do it. But, if you don’t achieve it, don’t beat yourself up. Just do your best and move on.

9. Fresh eyes.
This builds off having great betas/CPs—but have new people who can read other drafts. When you work in-depth with betas/CPs, they get to know the story (especially if you talk to them about scenes b/c then they get all that knowledge in their head.) Having someone with fresh eyes and no knowledge of the story read over things makes it stronger.

10. Flexibility in changing and cutting things that you may not want to.
If you count deleted scenes from my drafts, it would probably be another novel. I had to cut scenes that I loved because they didn’t work. I had to change subplots, delete subplots, and delete characters. The biggest thing is to BE FLEXIBLE because revision is a difficult stage of writing, and sometimes it requires you to approach your story in a new way.

11. Alcohol. 
Tis good. If you are 21---if not, find a cupcake.

12. Crying. 
Because it’s inevitable.

13. More frustration and complete and utter angst. 
It will happen. I suggest a place to vent, people that you can complain with, cupcakes, exercise, loud, angry music. I also suggest not fighting the angst because I believe that only makes it worse.

14. Embracing the urge to quit.
Because you will want to quit. You’ll want to be all “I hate this book and this is never going to work and EFF IT ALL!” and you’ll go wallow in a corner because you were crazy to ever try this writing thing and you’re wasting your time and everyone else is better than you so you should just get a job at Starbucks because at least they have benefits with their coffee.

15. Not quitting.
When you get up from the corner, go back to your computer. Do some more work. Because even though this hard, you want this and you can do it and it will all be okay.

16. Remember why you write.
For yourself. For your characters. For this story. For the joy of it instead of the pressure you’ve put on yourself to get an agent and sell to a big six and be a millionaire. (or whatever.)

17. Affirming friends.
People make this easier when you have fantastic friends—writers and non-writers. Non-writers are great because this isn’t their life and they can take you away from it when needed and you can move on. Writers are great because THEY GET IT. They can encourage you and relate to you and make you remember. Friends will also lock in your room when you need work.

18. Twitter.
Because it’s the biggest community of people and they are all (usually) very supportive and keep you accountable and are always SO EXCITED.

19. LOTS of painful feedback.
Because, again, writing is hard and changing things is hard and the truth can hurt, but all pain is for a reason and it will only push you.

20. Routine.
With each story, I always have a routine. A place I sit or a playlist I listen to before writing or a certain time that you write (morning, afternoon, middle of the night)—something. I think it helps.

21. Believing in my book, in myself, in the fact that it will all work out somehow and even if it doesn't get published or get an agent, that someone will love it and then it will all be worth it. 
And of course, see number 11 again.

Anything that you would add to the list?


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  2. No I really like this list. thanks for sharing it with me originally - it is now saved in my google docs forever :-)

  3. I will re-read this when I need motivation!

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