Posted by Kathleen Pooler/@kathypooler
“The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike,say, a brain surgeon.You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.” Robert Cormier
Tips on Getting Through the Revision Process as Painlessly as Possible
Let’s face it, we all want our readers to fall in love with our little darlings. Our stories are our babies. We have created them with our own hearts and hands. But, sometimes we are so close to our own words that we cannot see the discrepancies,missteps and omissions-the tweaks here and there that will make our stories come alive.
Professional editing is an essential part of publishing a marketable book.
Over my Christmas break, I received an editorial review and the first round of professional edits for my work-in-progress memoir. I braced myself for the feedback, knowing from the experience of writing Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse, how much more work I would be facing. I had already received feedback from eight beta readers and knew there were flaws in my story structure.
First I scanned through the comments, then I set it aside. The comments were substantive and thorough and would force me to keep digging deeper.
I have a love -hate relationship with the revision process. I dread the thought of all that hard work, yet feel excited about taking my story to the next level.
In the meantime, my son Brian was visiting and we found a pocket of time for him to read through my current draft before the professional edit. We sat in front of the wood stove as he read the story aloud, pausing to nod his approval or to make note on the paper about a discrepancy in the timeline.
“I didn’t know you felt that way, Mom.”
“I don’t recall that but this is your story, Mom.”
We paused to process each event, like the first time I saw him drunk and every once in a while he said,
“I’m OK with this, Mom. Some parts are hard to face but I accept that they happened. I am the man I am today because of my misspent youth.”
“This book will be a collaborative effort, B.”
Tips on Getting though the Revision Process
1. Give yourself time to absorb the feedback
Jody Hedlund, author of several Christian novels,has an excellent blog post on her reactions to her own revision process, “Getting Feedback That Makes You Want to Cry.” Of the “initial sting’ of feedback, she states “ you need to give it some time and then come back to the suggestions with humble and objective eyes.” I really appreciate Jody’s honest sharing of the human aspect of receiving feedback.
2. Remain open to ways to strengthen your story
The point is we have to be able to separate our emotions from the process of revising and convince ourselves that revising will make our stories stronger. We have to get over ourselves so we can go on to craft the best story in the best way.
3. Writing is rewriting is a common mantra in writing circles.
In his book Revision and Self-Editing, novelist James Scott Bell talks about the importance of “rewriting with know-how” and lists the following tips in the revision process:
“* Cool -Down …..Take a break and walk away when your first draft is done.
* Prepare.…. Read through your first draft completely for the first time.
* Print out and prepare a fresh copy..with red felt pen and notepad handy.
* Get ready to read.. in a couple of sittings.
* Use outside readers..for objective opinions.
* Analyze..Does my story make sense, is my plot compelling,are my characters believable,etc?”
Then,there’s the idea of being able to decide when our manuscript is done; when we’ve rewritten, incorporated feedback, deleted, added on,transformed our story and owned it. Perhaps this is another topic for another time.
It seems to me accepting writing as rewriting, revisions as a natural part of the process and constructive feedback as essential are all the first steps to strengthening our stories and giving them every possible chance to get into the hands of readers who will devour them with the same gusto it took for us to write them.
Perhaps the real starting point is when we accept that our first draft is lousy and needs to be rewritten, revised and reconstructed. Annie Lamott calls a first draft ” a child who is let loose and romps all over” in her book, Bird by Bird.
After much thought…
Interesting, after spending time with the feedback, I decided to heed the words of author David Safford in “How to Revise Your Story”:
“Rewrite on a blank page: A crowded page is a prison; a blank page is freedom.”
I started fresh with a blank page, identified a new working title, rewrote the synopsis and have begun incorporating the changes with attention to the main theme of the role hope played in healing from cancer and a son’s addiction.
I am writing with a clearer purpose and feel excited about where it will lead.
How about you? How do you feel about revising your work? Do you enjoy or dread the revision process? Any ideas on how to get through the revision process as painlessly as possible?
I’d love to hear from you. Please join in the conversation below~
“Connecting with My Readers by Memoirist Betty Hafner”
Betty is the author of a #1 Amazon Bestseller memoir, Not Exactly Love .Part memoir, part warm-hearted look at the ’70s, and part therapeutic journey, Not Exactly Love: A Memoir is an intense and inspirational story of a woman who grew from her experience.