Slaying the Revision Dragon

Looking at the multiple drafts of my WIP  marked up with suggested revisions is a
daunting task. I feel like St. George standing before the Dragon; I hope I will be as successful. My beta readers are awesome,
and I appreciate the time they have invested in helping me write the best book
possible. Now it is my turn to invest hours in rereading and revising The Cavanaugh House.

To say I felt overwhelmed when first facing this
process is putting it mildly. At the end of October, I had gathered all of my
drafts, set them in a row, and BAM, my back went out on me making it impossible
to sit at my computer for any length of time. Then we sold our cottage and had
an impromptu moving sale that lasted through two weekends, and then the
holidays arrived. It was January before I was able to return to my revisions. You
know how difficult tasks loom larger and larger the longer they are put off?
Yeah. A dragon.

I knew what I needed was a method. How would I
approach this Hydra-monster-task knowing that as I revised one draft, other
issues would reappear in the next? Now, I am a pantser when it comes to
writing, so I usually go where my Muse leads me without an outline or plan. That wouldn’t be effective in
this stage of my writing, so I MADE A PLAN. Oh, yes I did!
is Everything
I had an appreciation for my English students as my
heart sank at the appearance of red marker (yes, I provided each local reader
with a red pen) and tracking comments on the pages of my drafts. What? They
didn’t think my novel was perfect as it was? Even knowing that my beta readers
had my goal in mind—to make my book
the best it could be—I was a little disheartened at the need for any changes. So
the first step in my plan was an attitude adjustment—right now. After working through the first two drafts, instead of
feeling sorry for myself, I felt a tremendous appreciation for all the time and
effort my beta readers had put into improving my book. That alone made me feel
supported and surrounded by positive energy.
with Caution
I decided to approach my drafts with my beta readers
in mind. Some of their approaches were more developmental while others were
more mechanics. My intention was to tackle overarching story line edits first,
but I could not pass by mechanical edits along the way. So my systematic
approach became a bit muddied. I did line my drafts up according to which beta reader
would be most exacting on grammar, spelling and punctuation, figuring that some
of these would be corrected along the way by my developmental readers.
I never thought I’d say this, but the mechanical
corrections are so much easier than the developmental. I had to add an entire
scene in order to provide interaction between my protagonist and a secondary
character. The story line begged for it, and so did my beta readers. Naturally,
that change led to necessary modifications in their interactions later in the
book. It’s the domino effect—change this and it tumbles all the way to the end.
But once I had written it, the relationship between these characters made so
much sense—and added a delicious aspect to a conflict that had been minor. Can
you say “sequel”?
the Little Things
Not only do major rewrites require a thorough
re-look, minor changes do as well. For example, one of my readers noticed that
I used the word “got” too often. I sing her praises since “got” is such a weak
word. But once I revise it to an alternate word, say “acquired” or “progressed”
or “arrived”, I have to search the nearby pages to see if I am then repeating
that word. Hydra-monster indeed.
is Everything
I find revision seems to take more time than
creating the story—okay, maybe not. When I look at the revision process from
afar, it seems less exciting than the actual drafting of the story, but when I
get down to the task, it is exciting to see how tightening, changing, and
adding makes the story so much better. I am amazed at the insight and
creativity of my beta readers. Their suggestions are spot-on almost every time.
More Time
Once I finish with these revisions, I will turn my
draft over to H.J., my friend and former colleague whose line-editing is thorough! When she provides the final mark-up, I will make those
corrections and then publish. What a
sweet word!
So as I work on my revisions, I thank each of you:
Kate, Linda, Janet, Deborah, Luana, H.J., and Sarah. I have spent days with
each one of you whispering in my ear. Thank you for your efforts, your support
and your belief in me. I will slay this Revision Dragon, wrap my “girdle” around his neck and he will follow me like a tame beast…or so the legend goes.
share with me something you love or hate about your revision process.

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