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Novel Revisions




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People who look at this dress usually think one of two things:

1) No. Just … no.

or

2) Daring! I get what she’s going for.

I look at that dress and think: revisions.

A couple of months ago, idaho_laurie asked me to blog about the revision process once I finished.

Now that the uncontrollable sobbing and despair has abated, I’m ready to tackle the subject!

Haha! I kid.

I actually LOVE revising, because I know my hard work will make this book better.

But back to the dress.* It’s … well, there’s no other way to say this: it’s a bedspread. Perhaps lovingly crocheted by Cate Blanchett’s Grandma. Or perhaps it was the only dress her stylist brought with her, thirty minutes before Cate was scheduled to walk down the red carpet, so she just said, “Bloody hell, you complete nutter! I will wear this monstrosity, and I will wear it with such a blissfully beaming demeanor that everyone will be convinced I adore its bizarre yarn squares and one-shouldered whimsy! Also: you’re sacked!”

Here’s my crocheted-dress-as-revision analogy: Imagine your editor saying, “You see that square with the urine-yellow border? That's an unfortunate color. Please unstitch that square and pull out the yellow yarn. Replace it with a cornflower blue shade. Also … the unifying black borders? I think violet would work better. The length of the dress should be about two inches shorter. I would like you to seriously reconsider the long sleeve. I do understand that you’re fond of the asymmetrical look, but it’s distracting. Some more green might be a good idea.”

You can definitely do it.

But it won’t be easy.

Although …

… it might end up being FUN.

I’ve been trying to describe my revision process for a couple of days now. I started off very linear and prosaic (“First I sit down and read through my editor’s notes. Then I percolate for a day. I do NOT attempt to get started. Percolating is very necessary.”)

Not only was it boring, but my process certainly may not work for others. And you know what? It may not even work for me for the next book.

So I think instead I will just tell the story of How I Revised This Particular Book at This Particular Time in My Life.



August 24
Editorial letter arrived! Yay! Perfect timing – it’s Monday, and I have the week off work. Let me just settle down to read it. Okay. Okay, yes. Good point. Hmm, oooh … another good point. What?! I can’t get rid of the little brother! Lena can’t be an only child! Okay, wait. Let’s calm down. Let’s REMAIN CLAM. Heh. (That was a sign in a place I used to work, advising CLAM during emergencies.) (No, it wasn’t meant to be funny. It was just poor editorial management.)

August 25
Two hours in a Quiet Room at the public library, Internet disabled. Unfortunately, ‘quiet’ is a relative term, since the restrooms are very close. Many flushing and plumbing sounds. Managed to complete read-through of marked-up manuscript. Scribbled notes while I read. Went home and dove in to revisions … swimming puns for mermaid book commence now!

August 26
Two hours in a Quiet Room … wearing my beloved noise-cancelling headphones. After library, went home, ate lunch, noticed husband and son, and continued revising. I am presenting a sane face to the world, but am actually quite insane, immersed in thoughts like:

“How am I going to add depth to the boyfriend?”

and

“Of course the little brother’s baby talk is annoying! OMG how did I not notice that before? Please let me go back in time and fix that before I ever sent this book to my editor. What to do …? Dump his little toddler-talking ass? No. Lena simply cannot be an only child. I’ll make him six instead of three. Um, yeah. THAT won’t be much work.”

and

“Oh! I have some great ideas for new underwater scenes!”

August 27
After losing sleep over editor’s comments about the Sweet Sixteen birthday party (“This goes on a little long, and seems like a party for a much younger girl. Maybe we don’t need?”) today I spent hours revising the scene, shortening it and making the activities more age-appropriate.

When I finished for the day, I shut down my laptop and went into the family room to collapse on the couch. My husband was watching a playoff game of the Little League World Series.

“Who’s winning?” I asked.

As he was answering me, I tuned him out. He said words, but what my brain heard was this: “The party scene is still too long. It’s slowing down the pacing. It will have to go.”

Epiphany of the day: Sometimes you have to flail your way through. Sure, I spent hours trying to fix the scene, only to chuck it in the end … but it wasn’t wasted time if ALL BECAME CLEAR eventually.

August 31
Back to day job. Revisions cease to consume anywhere from 5 – 10 hours a day, and settle into early-morning/lunch hour/evening schedule.

Tweet from September 2, 5:41 a.m.
Good morning, book. Let’s do this.

September 6
Eyes tired. Brain fried. Butt sore. Another weekend of revise-apalooza!

It’s kind of handy that my husband isn’t working right now. He keeps the laundry cycling, the groceries stocked, and the kid fed and entertained. Plus we’ve been together so long he’s not unnerved by my blank stares.

Tweet from September 12, 8:36 a.m.
3 weeks after starting revisions, I finally reached the end of the manuscript this a.m. Now to go back to all the places marked "Fix this.”

Evening of September 12
As we got ready for an outing at the drive-in theatre in my husband’s 1963 convertible, my son said, “You’re coming with us?”

His tone was so pleasantly surprised that I felt an ache in my throat.

I gave him a big smile and a hug. “You bet! I wouldn’t miss Grease at the drive-in!”

Epiphany of the day: Time away from the book is just as important as time in front of the laptop. Not only because your loved ones are real live people who enjoy your company, but also because you never know when inspiration will strike: I decided to add depth to the boyfriend character by having him try out for the high school production of Grease.

Tweet from September 17, 6:36 a.m.
Oh, you slippery scene. I spanked the last scene & sent it to bed. You'd better behave, or you will find yourself in a similar fix, mister!

September 18 - 27
Worked. Revised. Longed for Tim Gunn to visit my head and say in his dulcet tones, "Talk to me." Then he would tell me I have a lot of work ahead of me, but that he loves what I've done so far.

September 28
Five weeks after receiving my editorial letter, I emailed back my revised manuscript.

WHEW.

That was intense.

And a dream come true.


*Courtesy of GoFugYourself, who filed this under “Oh Honey No.”

Comments

( 12 inscriptions — Inscribe a note )
marypearson
Nov. 12th, 2009 03:33 am (UTC)
oh wow. that was my first thought: She has a Grandma and the Grandma must be on her deathbed and this is her last tribute to her--wearing Grandma's crocheted dress.

Congrats on surviving revision : )
lkmadigan
Nov. 12th, 2009 03:37 am (UTC)
Isn't is just ... amaaaazing?

Thanks - the second round were mostly line edits, so I guess my flailing worked. :-)
robinellen
Nov. 12th, 2009 03:50 am (UTC)
Great analogy :)
lkmadigan
Nov. 13th, 2009 12:10 am (UTC)
Thanks, Robin! It was fun to write.
idaho_laurie
Nov. 12th, 2009 04:48 am (UTC)
Thank you! Thank you! ... and I LOVE the illustration! I wish Tim Gunn would visit me, too, and that I could go for a drive in a '63 convertible.
lkmadigan
Nov. 13th, 2009 12:30 am (UTC)
I thought about using my Tim Gunn icon, then I decided to use this one. Glad you liked the post. :-)
newport2newport
Nov. 12th, 2009 06:13 am (UTC)
I hereby dub thee The Reigning Queen of Fashion-related Analogies!!!

(Also? You rocked those revisions--congrats!)

Edited at 2009-11-12 06:14 am (UTC)
literaticat
Nov. 12th, 2009 06:34 am (UTC)
It's not soooo bad. The thing is - I love afghans with black borders. I had one as a kid. I think it is a classic look.

I just hate the sleeve, the asymmetrical collar, the non-sleeve, the ruffles on the bottom AND THE FACT THAT SHE IS WEARING A DRANKET.

OK, I guess it is pretty bad.
fabulousfrock
Nov. 12th, 2009 03:28 pm (UTC)
I rather liked the dress at first glance...but upon closer look...yeah. It is too much. Although a tiny Japanese girl could somehow make it look adorable with some goofy accessories.

Also, very fun post to read!
lkmadigan
Nov. 13th, 2009 12:32 am (UTC)
I think you're right about the tiny Asian girl. On Cate it just looks ... ??? Her style is usually so traditional and sleek.
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