So today I’m diving in to revisions for TART (the 2nd Delicious novel out in November). For those who may not be familiar with how this stuff works, here’s a down and dirty version of my process:
So you know, I come up with an idea and then I write a synopsis/outline for it. I hate writing synopses and in the very early days I didn’t because I subbed fulls anyway. But then once you get a few books under your belt you’re usually allowed to sell based on a partial. A partial is a synopsis and a sample of anything from one chapter to three chapters (though I’ve subbed as much as six). And later on, just a synopsis. And in a few instances I’ve had those, “we want more x from you” contracts, but that’s not nearly as common as a partial or at the very least a synopsis. But I digress (and this is common)
So selling to New York and to Samhain requires a synopsis – and I like selling books – so I write them. And I have to admit that when I come back to the book later it helps and also as I’m writing it, it lets me know if I’m on track with a logical story idea of if I’m just cloud talking. And cloud talking a novel is a pain in the ass when it comes time to write it later. Now the thing is, I’m not very woo woo about my writing. I don’t have a muse. I don’t have any rituals other than my odd and slightly obsessive inability to write a book until I have a title. I have a job, my job is writing books, even when I’m tired or annoyed or when I just want to lay on the couch, eat fried things and read all day. So I sit my ass in my chair and put my fingers on the keyboard and I do my work.
BUT – to me, the process of writing is organic. I’m a pantser at heart, but it’s sort of a mashup now. As in, I don’t know my characters and why they do things until I start writing the book. Things come to me as I go. So I don’t often follow my synopses very closely but luckily for me, none of my editors has ever complained about that. Doesn’t mean they don’t make me edit and revise though, if I need to.
So to recap a little – 1) idea 2) synopsis/partial 3) submission to editor 4) contract 5) writing of the book 6) editing and drafting and then submission to editor 7) revision or first round edits (and then you get copy edits, final pass pages, and the book goes to release, etc)
And then my editor reads it and gets back to me. Sometimes it’s, “Great! Really just a few small things you can deal with in copy edits.” Other times it’s, “I loved it, but I want to talk with you about a few things.”
So I had that latter yesterday and a call from my wonderful editor at Berkley, Leis Pederson. She and I usually do a revision call instead of a letter (though she does send me her notes after we talk which also helps later on). A revision call is usually along the lines of “I think you need to flesh out why she does X in chapter X” or “This scene on page X happens too soon” I’ve worked with Leis since 2007 when she bought Undercover (which was called Battlefront at the time). I’m fortunate to work with her and even more fortunate that she and I work together well. I respect her. She gives me great advice and suggestions and I trust her. Trust is integral to me. How can I take your suggestions seriously if I don’t trust you?
So back to revisions – I’m of the opinion that EVERY writer needs to be edited. I don’t care who you are or how awesome you think you are, the story resides in your head, another set of eyes is crucial because that other set of eyes will read the book like everyone else will – as in not in your head. This doesn’t mean I agree with everything my editors suggest or say. But IMO, if you can’t make a decent argument as to why you shouldn’t make the change, you probably should change it. Again, I don’t think writers should blindly accept revision suggestions, but at the same time, writers need to turn off their feelings during any critique or they won’t *hear* what’s being said. And if you can’t hear it, you can’t learn from it. And then what’s the point?
My last revision for Berkley was pretty quick and easy. The one I just did for Beneath the Skin at Samhain was a little more detailed, like the one I’m about to do for Tart I think. What I enjoy is the longer I do this, the more I can have that revision call or email and know as I read it exactly how I can address the issues. I love that I know I can add a sentence or a paragraph or even move something in a scene earlier or later and totally change the feel of the story. I wouldn’t know that if I hadn’t been edited. I wouldn’t know that if I hadn’t done this a while.
A good revision leaves me feeling satisfied when I send the book back. Sometimes having the time after you finish and send the book away is key. Things stew in your brain and you can make a difference with just a few small tweaks. It’s an entirely different creative process than writing the book was and I find that exciting and fascinating. I know, I’m odd, but really, revision is one of my favorite parts of the entire process. The book is written. I know how it goes and how it ends so that particular pressure is absent. It’s about diving in and finding new things, realizing how to accentuate and make more subtle. It pleases the control freak who lives in my belly too.
We are in a business that involves a whole lot of feeling like if you don’t hurry you’ll miss something – an opportunity, a deadline, etc. But revisions, to me, are about slowing down to really pay attention to how the book comes together as a whole. Pacing, tension, chemistry between characters, how all the threads of the story fit or not and how to keep it all moving to the last page. And I’m off to do just that!