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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Revision 2 - Editorial

Official revision time for The Spirit Lens has arrived, ie. I received editorial comments from my editor at Roc, along with the dreaded, "Can you have that done by the end of May?" As I've got another book to write and a short story due in August, I'd jolly well BETTER be able to do it by the end of May. This is the time when I must refine and finish and polish and perfect the story. There will opportunity for some changes later, but not so much a total rewrite.

So what did I hear? Several very good things. Hooray! Writers are notoriously pessimistic and confused when they submit a manuscript. Is it garbage? Does it make sense? Did I overlook the simple look over the shoulder that would have made the whole plot moot? I heard intriguing, marvelous, fascinated, fantastic (all selectively applied!) First rule of critique, tell the writer what works and don't leave out the overall kudos! (Thanks, Anne.)

And then she had a couple of pages of comments. And yes, she would really like it a few K words shorter. No big rewrites, no wholesale chopping or lopping. The comments coalesced into three main areas:

Clarifications: most of these are "short answer questions," in this case having to do with the mystery. "How did he conclude that...?" or "Was Maura from Mattefriese? I missed the connection."

Faulty threads: these are slightly larger issues (only two in this case) that are more pervasive. In this case, the comments deal with

  • clarifying one metaphysical thread. I knew this was murky (as I kept developing it along the way). But I just happened to have an insight on this very issue while working on The Soul Mirror yesterday. At some point, you MUST know what is going on.
  • the gradual unfolding of one character's personal history. This is a piece I have already improved and should require only a little tweaking.

Pacing: Some pieces just move too slowly. This is a perennial problem with me, as I want to lay in so many layers that readers can come back and say, "Ah!" I am writing for re-reading. And yet, I really need to drive the pace into the heart of the action, especially in the few places she mentioned (all right on target). This should also take care of some of the excess verbiage.

Unlike in some editorial letters, there was nothing I disagreed with. (I am always free to disagree.) And, as it happens, I have a revision list of my own that is MUCH tougher than this one.

My first moves? Pick off the low-hanging fruit. Take care of the clarifications. Some of them can be fixed with three or four words. Some, a few sentences. For a couple, I chose to rewrite a piece of a scene. I love this part! The extra insight - and the distance of not considering this particular piece for a while - makes the resulting words SO much clearer and better, more in tune with all I've learned since I first wrote them.

Next, I cleaned up my own revision list and looked for low-hanging fruit. Most of that I picked off long ago. In all, this took me a few hours.

I always turn on Word's change tracking for revision. As I address an issue, I can easily review a thread of manuscript changes throughout the book. I'll put in a change, go on to another piece, and another. At some point I'll parse through all the current changes and OK (or revise) the simple ones. The more complex rewrites I'll leave in overnight. Today I went through these. I often work on these a bit more before OKing them. This process works well for me, helping me keep track, especially of changes that affect several places in the book.

Now that's all done, I am printing out the whole book. Starting day after tomorrow, I'll read from beginning to end, keeping my editor's remaining issues and my own list of much more complicated revisions close to hand. I'll talk about that next time. Meanwhile, it's back to The Soul Mirror.


Kathy Amen said...

Gee whiz, but this sounds REALLY HARD! We certainly appreciate the end product, but I'm glad you're on the producing end and I just get to receive!

Anna said...

I'm so glad you write for re-reading. I love finding those little "Aha!" bits the second (or third) time through. "Intriguing, marvelous, fascinated, fantastic"... yep, that sounds like a Carol Berg book!


Di Francis said...

You are so much more organized about this than I am. I read the notes and make a plan for the larger things, then I start at the beginning of the manuscript and start going page by page, hitting the big problems and line edits at the same time. It's the only way I can get my mine around it. I have to work in a linear way.

Right now I'm in drafting mode. My deadline is soon and I have so little done . . .

carolwriter said...

SOrry if part of this post was obscured by a misplaced html tag - it likely makes more sense now.

Essentially I do a linear edit as well - that's the part I'm starting tomorrow. I just go in and do some of the easy ones "confusing sentence on page 356" ones first, so I feel as if I've already accomplished something. This particular book has been so unruly that I have more issues that I want to address than is usual.

And yeah, the whole process is hard. I thought it would get easier by the 11th book. Not so.