Thursday, April 10, 2014

Revising a novel is like renovating a house. Doing both at once is... well, it's like living in the most turbulent moment of your story and having it never end. Fun? Yes. And no.  

For me, one of the best moments is writing "The End" after completing a first draft. Everything feels wonderful and perfect and I'm all "woo-hoo-my-story-is-finished-let’s-go-celebrate!" And then reality sets in... oh yeah, it’s a first draft. That means the really hard work is just beginning. Same with buying a house that needs some TLC. You get the shiny new keys, you move in all your personal baggage, you see the amazing potential—and then you realize there are squirrels living in your closet walls and the pipes burst and flood your basement, and the furnace stops working on the day the temperatures drop to negative 15 and...

Yeah, revising. It’s kinda like that.

Once you start to really tear into your manuscript, the novelty fades and you see all its flaws. You fix one problem only to expose another. Your quick two-day project turns into a two-month debacle. Essentially, you see your work for what it really is: a diamond in the rubble. Lots of rubble. Which isn’t so bad. It's actually okay. Because when it’s all said and done—heck, it’s a diamond!

For those who have traveled this territory, you know there is only one option: put on your mask, pick up your chisel, and get to work. I have read through my novel countless times, making big-picture revisions and smaller-scale tweaks. I found that spending four days getting one scene to be exactly where it needs to be is frustrating but ultimately one of the most satisfying aspects of the whole process. 

Three of us here at WHYA are chest deep in revisions right now, and one of us recently finished it. It’s so nice to have company in the trenches--and trusted partners to help guide you through them. 

Anyone else out there working on story renovations? What keeps you motivated on your tough days? What do you think is the most challenging part? And how close are you to unearthing that hidden gem?

2 comments:

Jaime Morrow said...

You are so not alone in the trenches. I'm there too. O_o I once heard someone refer to revising like playing a game of Whack-a-Mole, and I really have to agree. For every issue conquered, another few pop up. The thing that keeps me going is breaking it up into little chunks, tackling it bit by bit. I have a tendency to get overwhelmed by it all, so this helps immensely. Best of luck to all of you ladies in the trenches! :-)

Ingrid Palmer said...

That's a great strategy, Jaime. I like making lists of all the different things I need to review/change because it's so satisfying to cross items off it :p Good luck to you as well -- we will get there!

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Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.


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The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
Eleanor and Park
The Shattered Mountain
The Shadow Cats
Transparent
Froi of the Exiles
Days of Blood & Starlight
Every Day
Jellicoe Road
Finnikin of the Rock
Guitar Notes
The Dead-Tossed Waves
The Crown of Embers
New House 5: How A Dorm Becomes A Home
Bitterblue
The Fault in Our Stars
Pretties


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