How I Tackle Revisions: An Evolving Process

It’s been two months since I blogged about the first two steps in my revision process. Usually I would be at step four or five by now, but life has forced me to slooow down with this work-in-progress, and also to take another look at my process. Patience and flexibility are both a struggle for me, so that translates to the revisions not going as smoothly as I like.

On Taking It Slow

Some of you might remember my post about patience. I have an internal clock prodding me to do everything fast, fast, faster. It doesn’t help that I spent ten years in an industry where everything was billable down to 1/10 of an hour. It’s been quite an adjustment for me to switch to a life that doesn’t require me to track every minute of my day.

As a memento of that fast-paced career, I still prod myself to do things quickly, but I’m getting better. Usually I’m through revisions in a few weeks and ready to send the manuscript off to readers. I love to revise, so it’s easy to put all my focus on it. However, I haven’t been able to this time. I started revisions in December, but then there were the holidays, and my grandma passed away.

I dug back in, but then I had a couple of manuscripts come in from writing friends to read. I could have said it wasn’t a good time so I could log that revision time, but you know what? It turned out critiquing was one of the best tasks I could take on to work through my own revisions. Reading for others activated the critical part of my mind, making me much more alert to plot, character, and even style issues. Obviously there are issues I won’t see without another opinion no matter how critically I think, just because I’m too close to my own work, but I was able to separate myself from the WIP more than I ever have in the past.

The second benefit of being forced to slow down is that I’ve come up with solutions to many issues that probably would have been left to my readers and CPs to point out if I’d rushed through. There’s something to be said for taking the time to really think. It’s a luxury I’ve never considered before.

On Being Flexible

I’m very process-oriented. I have a system for everything, which is why it’s hard for me to adjust to the fact that querying is not a science. With my first manuscript (ok, the first one I claim), I traded chapter by chapter with another writer. It was a great experience, and I learned a lot from it, but it didn’t seem like the right process for my next manuscript. That’s when I switched to sending the whole manuscript to readers and doing several rounds of that. At the same time, I used forums and other readers to polish the query, synopsis, and first pages until I got to the point where everything felt ready. I used the same process with the last two manuscripts, and while it hasn’t yet resulted in signing with an agent, I felt comfortable with it. I liked the structure of it.

As a result, I haven’t sent someone a rough draft in three years. But in December one of my writing friends sent me an email saying she would have time to read in January and February if I had anything. She’s always given me excellent notes but usually can’t get back to me as quickly as my other CPs and readers, so I knew I should take advantage of her availability. By late January, I’d gotten through about ninety pages of revisions, and I was struggling with some major issues at the beginning, so I sent it to her with many caveats about it not being as polished as what she usually reads. I’m so glad I did! She got back to me in record time, while I was still midway through revisions on the draft. Her comments really helped me focus through the rest of the draft. As I considered what she’d said about the early part of the manuscript, I figured out what I needed to fix in the later part of the manuscript.

So what have I learned here? First, that taking is slow is ok, even a good thing. Second, that I shouldn’t get so stuck in my systems and processes. Believe me, this is a lesson I’m continually learning in life, too. I may have some control issues :).

How do you tackle revisions? Do you take your time? At what point do you let others read your work?

Other How I Tackle Revisions posts:


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