Thursday, February 23, 2012

Revision Update

As you know I'm smack in the middle of revising my novel--which is why posting here has become so spotty.  Anyway, I promised to post periodic updates and talk a little more about my editor's notes and comments. 

I want to share the process because I don't see a lot out there about what happens after you sign with an agent.  Now keep in mind, this is just my experience.  Everyone is unique--which is what makes you all wonderful!--so your experience might be different.

So after I signed with Dan, we agreed that the novel needed some revisions, which is pretty typical.  Now the revisions we're talking about are not minor things.  They involve cutting huge swaths of the manuscript which means of course that I have to write new material to replace what we took out. 

I knew this going in, and I'm fine with it.  In fact, let me just pause here and give a shout out to Dan Lazar.  He has such a keen literary eye.  Not because he signed me (although of course that helps!) but because he can look at a book and get exactly what tone the author is trying to convey.  Then he helps tighten the focus and play up that tone.  For me, I'm hoping to convey a beautiful strangeness in my work, and he soooo got that. 

We are working with an independent editor on the revisions, and let me tell you, she is fantastic!  Like Dan, she totally gets what I'm trying to do.  She spent a lot of time going over the manuscript and pulling out its emotional core.  Then she offered suggestions on how to strengthen the emotions in the book.  Because that's what we care about, isn't it?  If we don't have an emotional tie to the characters in a novel, we don't really care what happens. 

Anyway, I sent her the manuscript before Christmas and I got a letter in the mail with her comments a few weeks ago.  (We had been emailing back and forth during this time so I knew to expect the letter.)  Eight single-spaced typed pages.  She examined each character and included specific suggestions on how to improve them.  Then she looked at the plotting and helped me figure out how to tighten the pacing.  Unfortunately for me, that involves cutting part of one character's POV.  Yikes! Which means I have about 1/3 of the novel to reconstruct.  That's why I haven't been as active here lately! 

Anyway, although cutting that POV meant a lot of work, I took a deep breath and saw that she was right.  That POV was giving a lot of backstory which was bogging things down.  I thought I was being witty and smart by structuring things this way.  Turns out, not so much.

So where do things stand now?  After today, I should be a little over 1/3 of the way finished.  That will mean I've gone through the first 1/3 of the manuscript twice.  I go through the first time and add/delete scenes (or whole chapters--ouch!) and then I print everything out and comb through it a second time to tighten up the language and pacing, heighten the emotions, and  make sure the characters are well-developed. 

I know some people go straight through from start to finish, but that's never worked for me.  For me, it's like leapfrogging.  Go over a set chunk, leap back and tighten it.  Move forward with the next chunk, leap back and tighten it...repeat until the whole thing is finished. 

Tomorrow, I'll start on the second third, then leap back and tighten it before moving on to the end.  By the time I finish with this stage, I will have gone through the novel twice.  Then I'll put it down for a week or two before going back over it from start to finish.  If everything's okay, I'll send it off to my agent and editor.  Then I'll wait for the next round of edits, which will hopefully be at the line level and just involve fixing things like awkward sentences. 

After that, hopefully we'll have a strangely beautiful story that's ready for Dan to send to publishers! 

So, that's where everything stands.  I'll keep trying to pop in and update everyone, but it will be spotty until the revisions are finished. 


  1. Thanks so much for sharing. I'm querying my first novel and have been wondering about this aspect of the process. It's cool that Dan was willing to take your book on even though it needed fairly substantial revisions. I can't wait to read it!

  2. Kerri, I'm glad it helped! Good luck with querying!! That's super exciting and stressful all rolled into one! I'll keep my fingers crossed for you!

    Oh, and yeah, Dan's pretty awesome. I feel so lucky that he took me on, especially considering the revisions we're doing.