There are two kinds of authors. (Well, really, a bazillion kinds, but in this particular case, usually two.)
There are authors who love writing first drafts and hate doing revisions. And authors who love doing revisions but hate first drafts. There may be some who love both, but I haven't met one yet :-)
The authors who hate the revision part call it "Revision Hell." And I am usually one of them. But something interesting happened while I was working on my latest book, SEEDS OF CHANGE. I kinda, sorta enjoyed the revision process. I'll tell you why.
Let me start with a confession. (No, not about that. We're not talking about my personal life here.) My confession is this: I don't tend to do a lot of revision. Or at least, I don't do big post-first draft revisions, in part because I edit as I go along (which catches a lot of the small stuff) and in part because I usually work from a very detailed outline (which prevents some of the big stuff from being a problem in the first place).
In fact, when I signed with my agent, Elaine Spencer, she told me that my manuscript (for Pentacles & Pentimentos) was the only one she ever sent out on submissions without having to edit it first. I tend to write very clean, tight books. And I learn from the mistake I make in each previous book, which means I'm making fewer mistakes in the next one, in theory at least.
But SEEDS OF CHANGE fought me every step of the way. It didn't want to be written out first in outline form, although I had a pretty good idea of beginning and end, and some of what happened in the beginning. I had to do serious brainstorming with the fabulous Candace Havens and Heather Long before I could even get past chapter three. In short, the first draft process kicked my ass. And then when Elaine read it, she told me the manuscript needed some serious revision.
Normally, that would have freaked me out. But the truth was--I already knew it. And she liked what I had written, for the most part, she just thought the book needed MORE. More layers, deeper connections between the characters, more world building. And, thankfully, she had detailed notes and suggestions for how I could accomplish all those things. We had a great phone conversation to make sure we were both on the right page, and I sent both notes and ms to Lisa DiDio, the best critique partner on the planet for her input. And then I got to work.
But to my surprise, instead of dreading the revisions, as I usually do, I mostly enjoyed them. I had lots of great pieces to work with (thanks to Elaine and Lisa) and plenty of ideas of my own on how to add things--it was more like trying to figure out what the bits and pieces were, and where they should be put to add the most to the story. In short, it was a puzzle--and I LIKE puzzles.
It took me all month, pretty much, but I've finished the major revisions. I'll spend the next few days doing another read-through and making sure I didn't miss something [when you make a lot of substantive changes, it is easy for small things to be left that no longer fit with the new stuff], and then send the new and improved version off to Elaine. Hopefully, before my birthday on Saturday, so I can actually relax.
I started the revisions with 90,553 words and ended up with 110,409 (and since I cut one huge scene, there were more words added than it looks like: 26K words and 81 pages of new material, in fact). The book is much improved and I learned some new skills along the way. It wasn't always fun, but it was an interesting challenge. Hopefully I will be a better writer for having done it.
And from now on, I won't worry quite so much about Revision Hell. Truth is, it isn't much worse than Revision Heck.
So, if you write--which part do you like better, first drafts or revisions? Inquiring minds want to know.
TBT: December 2007
6 hours ago