Yet More on Editing and Revision

Last week David Coe posted about the revision process. He is in the early stages, having just received his editorial letter and he finds himself trying to go back to a work he finished six months ago when he is already well submerged in a new project. Ironically, the day I read his post was the day I turned in the revisions for my next book. Here he is at the beginning of the revision process, and me just coming out the tunnel at the other end. So I thought it worth having a look back at getting that letter and what passed in between and how I feel now.

So I had much the same reaction to getting the letter as David. (Oh, to hear those mythical “It’s perfect” words).  My editorial letter was more substantial than David’s I think. I had some fairly major bits to fix–character issues and some plot issues, and then a fairly extensive list of more minor things.  Once I got done reading it and having my little freak out and some chocolate and Scotch, I started thinking and planning and then talked to my editor about some potential ways to do some fixes (like the fact that I introduced an incredibly pointless character and always meant to use him more, but didn’t, so I either had to cut him out or use him. He’s laying in the snippet file, destined to rise again in some future book). After that conversation, I started revising.  I think it worth mentioning here that my editor’s comments were, on the whole, on target. I might cavil that I had not done a job worthy of an “it’s perfect,” but I don’t question that the criticims are valid. At least–I give very serious consideration to every one. She does know what she’s doing. So anyhow, I started revising.

Okay, that’s a lie.

I poked at the manuscript with a pointy stick and tried to figure out how to get it done. I dithered. I wasted time. And the deadline started getting closer and closer. Part of it was that I had lost my characters’ voices. I needed to capture them again, and I couldn’t do that. Like David, I’d moved on to another project and my mind didn’t want to come back.  But finally it gelled and I was off.

After that, things went quickly. There were some incredibly difficult scenes to revise because, while I knew they needed to be fixed and even knew what I wanted to happen, I couldn’t quite nail it. In fact there was one line that I needed to fix that was a climax to the scene that I ended up spending hours on. I couldn’t get the right tone and it needed it. The scene was too important to the end of the book not to hit exactly the right note. (For the record, my editor’s comment on the original line was something like “this made me throw up in my mouth a little.” Yeah, she doesn’t pull punches. That’s a post for another day–but trust me, the honestly is appreciated).

Other things went more smoothly. At this point in the writing process, I am able to be really brutal about chopping and pruning. I try hard to look at things in terms of how well they contribute to the story, or am I just liking this bit or that one and want to keep them for no better reason than because I like them. I try to be ruthless about how well things are done (or how not well) and I wade into and start bashing it into shape.

So now it’s gone back to my editor. And I go back to panicking about whether she’ll like it (for a couple of minutes anyhow. Then I start diving into the next project–deadlines keep coming). But I do know this: I thought this was a pretty good book when I turned it in the first time (though I thought of it as a draft because I knew revisions were inevitable), and I think it’s a really good book now.

I hope I’m not delusional.

So David, I’ll look forward to hearing your post-game report. Anybody else want to talk about how you feel about a book post-revision?

Oh, and by way of shameless self-promotion, my new novel, The Turning Tide, releases in just two days. So feel free to go spend your hard earned cash on me. Mamma needs a new pair of socks . . .

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  1. 1. David B. Coe

    Sounds like you came through the process pretty well, Di. I did, too. My editor’s comments were fairly mild this time around (last time, not so much, and who knows what the next book will bring) and having not started my next book quite yet I was able to dive right into rewrites and get them done quickly. The book is better now than it was; a scene that had been problematic but necessary is now effective and pivotal, and we found a place for some background that I should have put it in in the first place.

    Good post. It’s helpful, I think, to follow these stages of the process from beginning to end.

  2. 2. Loberto

    “I poked at the manuscript with a pointy stick and tried to figure out how to get it done. I dithered. I wasted time. ”

    That’s me right now, bashing my head uselessly on my keyboard…

  3. 3. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    David: You’re done? Wow. You are fast. And together. And wow. You’re my hero.

    Loberto: yes. exactly so. sending sympathies . . .

Author Information

Diana Pharaoh Francis

Diana Pharaoh Francis has written the fantasy novel trilogy that includes Path of Fate, Path of Honor and Path of Blood. Path of Fate was nominated for the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award. Recently released was The Turning Tide, third in her Crosspointe Chronicles series (look also for The Cipher and The Black Ship). In October 2009, look for Bitter Night, a contemporary fantasy. Diana teaches in the English Department at the University of Montana Western, and is an avid lover of all things chocolate. Visit site.

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