Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Five Things I've Learned While Revising

I'm neck-deep in revisions for my third book right now. So I figured I'd share a few honest thoughts I've learned while revising this book:

1--I still have room to grow. This one is crucial. I am still learning and developing as a writer, and I need to remember that. There are things I can do better in my books, scenes I can write better, characters I can portray better. A little humility goes a long way--if I think I've achieved the best I can be, then there's nowhere else for me to go, and I might as well hang up my writer's hat.

2--Focus is my friend. I had a hard time digging into these revisions at first because I felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of what I need to do. But breaking it into bite-sized chunks made it easier. I sat down and compiled an ordered list of how I wanted to approach the revisions. Instead of looking at the manuscript as a whole, I only took one piece at a time. It seriously has helped so far.

3--Kill your darlings. I may have loved a scene I wrote and felt it was funny and perfect and brilliant. But if it doesn't belong, if it slows the pacing or detracts from the main narrative, I need to be ruthless and cut it. This is SUPER hard at times, but it's for the best of the story.

4--Characterization matters. One of the things I'm doing on this round is deepening character, especially the guy. As a reader, we need to feel like we know him. I didn't have enough of him in the story. And since this is a romance, it cheats the readers if they don't get a better sense of him.

5--Keep an open mind. It's hard getting a letter that spells out the flaws of your story. We all want to feel like our creative attempts are loved as-is. But the best approach is to not close yourself off to suggestions and to detach yourself as best as possible. Try viewing your story from an outsider's unbiased POV. I'm glad I listened to my editor's advice, because he pinpointed exactly what was wrong with this book. Now, I know the novel is going to be much stronger.

So, what about you? Are you going through anything challenging that's teaching you some life lessons? Share!


  1. Well, Rhonda... I haven't sold yet, and I still haven't found a critique partner, so I have to be my own editor.

    BUT... I finally read "Writing the Breakout Novel" and used it as a plot editor, since I'm in the plotting stage of this WIP. I discovered that, while I've learned enough about conflict and characterization to know what needs to be a part of the story, I still need to figure out what order to include it all! I discovered that the important parts of my characterization were getting buried, and major points of my plot were going to be in the wrong positions. Stuff like that. In other words, TIMING MATTERS! :-)

  2. That's an EXCELLENT point, Kathleen!

  3. The most challenging thing for me right now is writing every day. Even when I don't feel like it. I think it's teaching me discipline. Which I sorely need. lol

  4. Let's not forget that up to Rhonda's neck isn't really that far, lol.

    Seriously, though. Great post. I think humility is the hardest lesson in life.

  5. Kristen--VERY good call. Discipline is crucial too!

    Gwen--hardy har har. But very true--I am short. LOL

  6. I've been a delinquent writer since my vaca, but your (2) above struck a chord. It's overwhelming to think about EVERYTHING that must be done during the writing process as well; it's much easier to think about chap by chap.

    And for (3), Sometimes killing scenes is fun bc it makes the book shorter and less to edit -- ha! :)

  7. Whoa... Rhonda's way smart.

    I printed this. Number three is one of those things I think we all dodge even though we KNOW it's important. It's too easy to whine and get all artsy-bratty about our voice and our creative child and... our excuses.