May 24, 2012

My Revision Ritual


I am in the midst of revisions for my agent. Yes indeedy, I am. Right now, I'm knee-deep in adding world-building details, deepening character motivation, and looking up random topics on Wikipedia. Such as:

How did the Nazis view religion? 
Do Unitarians use any symbols? 
How tall are cornstalks in April? 

Apparently, I am writing a book about Nazi Unitarian farmers. It's gonna be a bestseller, I tell you!

This is my second time tackling revision notes for my agent. The first time around was for my middle grade space opera, which needed a lot of work and thus required more extensive notes. This time around, my notes have focused more on world-building and character inconsistencies, but I find myself going through the same revision ritual as before. You know, a little bit of flailing, a little bit of angsting, a little bit of ARGHing, and then...acceptance.

Step One: Freak out a little

This is par for the course, no? Every time I get revision notes from someone---whether it's my husband or my agent or my beta readers---I tend to flail. After all, it can be overwhelming to have your work, your precious baby, critiqued and dissected and pulled apart. And being the delicate flower that I am, I must have a good freak out!

Step Two: Think it out

After my flail session, I need some quality time to let my revision notes sink in. Fortunately, I received my notes when I was in Taiwan so this step was easier to achieve. I'd let my mind drift to editing when I was riding on the subway or slurping noodles or, you know, running away from gigantic Formosan spiders. They were as big as my hand!

Step Three: Talk it out

Now, I call in the reinforcements! This is when writing friends come in handy. You can talk revisions with them! And they shall impart wisdom! For this revision, I emailed my beta readers and chatted about what I wanted to do with my next revision. What sort of world-building details should I add? What did they think about the idea I had for fixing a certain problem? After we spoke, I sat down with my computer and pondered some more.

Step Four: Butt in chair

There comes a point in a writer's life in which she can no longer procrastinate. That time has now arrived. After flailing and thinking and brainstorming, I finally get down to business. That is, I stare at my laptop...and stare some more.

And then, THEN!, I get down to business.

First up, I create a new Sticky note on my Mac where I jot down all of the revisions I need to tackle. (If you have a a Mac and don't use Stickies, why the heck not?!) Then, well, I just start. Typically, I begin with the easiest revisions (changing names, removing a minor character, adding world-building details, etc.) and then I move onto the harder ones (refining character motivations, re-writing whole chapters, etc.). As of now, I'm still working on some of the more minor problems but I'm segueing into the larger issues, which hurts my brain a little but in a good way.

Anyway, there you have it! My revision ritual! If you feel bad for me, please send chocolates and cookies and cute kittens my way. :)

I'm curious too. What are your revisions like? Do you have any rituals? Do tell! 


  1. I don't know anything about writing or revising, but I know lots about flailing and freakouts however... About chocolates, cookies, and cute kittens... a neighbor of mine has a kitten who needs a home and, wait for it... is blind. Now if that doesn't melt your heart I don't know what will! Then we have Geoff's Aunt Molly who is fostering 5 kittens. I'll send you pictures. ;o) Good luck with all your rituals!

  2. Oh no no no, Courtney. No kittens for us! Please god, no kittens for us.


  3. Oh I love the videos :-D

  4. I couldn't live with out the stickies on my MAC! I keep my revision notes in Scrivener sidebars, for the most part, so that they line up with each chapter when applicable and are easy for me to reference. As for my process... It's changed a little each time! The revision on my current WIP is taking for-freaking-ever. And I haven't even sent the full thing out to CPs yet.

    I'm totally with you on the flailing, though. I have to have a glass of wine while I read through notes I get back. (And, with one of my CPs, TWO, ha.)

  5. These gifs are PERFECT for this post! Haha. I think flailing and freaking out is necessary before you start. I mean, you get all those crazy-making feelings out of your system first so that you can think straight later! Good luck with your revisions!

    I can only send you virtual chocolate and cookies (and hugs), but I'll probably be tweet spamming pics of my puppy all weekend - hopefully that's a suitable substitute for kittens? :)

  6. Nothing like a good freak out! I can't remember how I revise because I seem to have been working on this first draft FOREVER!

    Hope it's going well!

  7. My revision process is very much like yours, with the addition of lists. SO MANY LISTS. And lots of looking things up. I spent an hour in a Starbucks once googling how long it takes to burn a body to ash under certain conditions. (Book related, I promise! *grin*)

    Good luck!

  8. Well, I print my entire manuscript out and do a read-through and make notes. When I read on my computer I don't find the kinds of errors I do on the printed page. So, printing is a must for me. :-D I love the GIF's.