I can’t believe it’s been three weeks since I posted, but I promise I wasn’t just slacking off. First there was Christmas, then we went to Florida so my husband could be one of the best men in a wedding. And then we went here:
In case you can’t read the signs in the second photo, one direction leads to Hogwarts and the other to Hogsmeade. Let me just say that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter lived up to every expectation I had. The ride inside Hogwarts was totally worth the wait. We ate lunch at the Three Broomsticks and visited Olivander’s wand shop. I spent way too much on Harry Potter souvenirs. Oh well. It was all worth it to see the books come to life. We spent New Year’s Eve at Universal Studios and flew back to Missouri on New Year’s Day.
So why haven’t you heard from me for the past week? Because I’ve been feverishly working on revisions for the YA version of DUET. I sent it to three readers two weeks before Christmas. I received comments from the first one the week before Christmas and had to sit on my hands to keep myself from jumping right into revisions. Her comments made so much sense, but I have a bad habit of taking one person’s comments and revising right away. I resolved to wait until I had all the feedback, which left me twiddling my thumbs a lot that week before Christmas. However, it also enabled me to send the other two readers some specific questions and possible solutions to consider when they finished reading. That turned out to be an excellent thing.
I received comments from the second reader as I was getting ready for the rehearsal dinner in Florida and the third while eating dinner at Universal Studios. Ah, the magic of smart phones. I have to say, the fact that I couldn’t start working on the revisions until I got back was a blessing in disguise. It gave me time to really think about what I needed to do to fix the issues so I was ready to jump right in when I got back.
Here’s where I’d like to emphasize how important it is to get multiple opinions. We all come at a story with our own histories and views on life. No two people are going to read the same manuscript and see it the exact same way. And while all three readers commented on the same major issue I needed to fix, they made different points about it and had slightly different reactions to my proposed solutions. By synthesizing all that together, I came up with a new, modified solution that fits with the story and what I’m trying to accomplish. If I’d started revising after the first one, it wouldn’t have been as strong of a solution.
That’s what critique partners bring to the table. They don’t solve your problems for you. They challenge you to make it better your own way. I see it like a puzzle. The first draft is missing some pieces. I send it out to readers, who hand me new pieces that I have to fit into the puzzle without compromising my vision for the story. Without fail, the final result is something much better than I would have come up with on my own.
I can’t give you a formula for how many people should read your work before you know it’s ready. I don’t even know that answer for myself, but I’d say it has to be more than one. And I’m not finished yet. The changes I made in this round were pretty major, so I still need more eyes on it before it’s ready to go.
What’s your system for revising? Do you start after you hear from one reader? Do you wait? Honestly, if I hadn’t been forced to by our trip, I’m not sure I could have done it, but now that I’ve seen how effective it is, I’ll restrain myself the next time, too. I’d love to hear how others handle it.