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Revision Xibalba

While I’ve been blogging mostly about Vicki and “dream writing” this week, the real “work” I’ve been doing is Revision Xibalba.  I got the revision letter from my new editor at Carina Press last week and a deadline of 2/28, so I’m rocking and rolling through her notes.  Vicki is actually my cookie at the end of the day for a job well done.  Er, hopefully well done.

So I guess it’s only fair that I talk about revision process too, right?  Holly Lisle has made the “one-pass revision” her bread and butter.  I can’t think off-hand of any other author who has blogged about their revision process (if you know of any useful resources, shout them out).  So here’s a bit about what I’ve been doing this week.

Of course, the HOW depends on WHAT the changes actually are.  I’m not working on the line-edit phase yet, correcting typos, answering the copy-editor’s notes about eye-color change or questioning the word choice with a suggestion.  No, this is high-level revision, and quite honestly, pretty tough.  I can’t just point to one little spot, make the change, and be done.  Several scenes have to be touched, and tiny changes here affect changes deeper in the story.  I have to keep things consistent and tight, while still addressing the issues.

First:  read the revision letter, all the way through.  Then put it away for a day or two and just think about it.  Let all the comments soak in.  Rumminate.  See what makes sense, organize any questions or comments on paper.  I did so, and by Sunday, I had a plan of attack in my mind.

It’s deceptive to see a little bullet or short paragraph like “make sure you continue the heroine’s wry sense of humor all the way through–it sort of disappears near the end.”  (Not a direct quote – just a paraphrase.)  My first thought was oh.  Didn’t I do that?  I thought I did.  Hmmm.  I should read a few passages in the last third or so and see. 

Second.  Read the manuscript (at least sections).  Look for trends and patterns the editor has pointed out.

Oh.  Yeah.  I started to see patterns where I had the wry humor coming from the wrong character.  Or I could expand Jaid’s dialogue or introspection just a bit and make it bigger. 

Third:  Fix.  Maybe not as easy as it sounds.

Fix Phase 1.  Doubt.  I wasn’t really trying to make Jaid funny at all.  I had this sudden surge of distress and doubt.  OMG, how can I make this funny?  Wry humor, what is that?  I did it on accident!  I swear!

Fix Phase 2:  I read the beginning of the book and jotted a few examples of where I thought Jaid had been slightly funny or self-depreciating.  I had several examples.  Again, I started to see patterns, lines of subtle humor that had been laid down at the beginning and never mentioned again.  Dropped threads, missed opportunities. 

Hello, she’s the Un-Indiana Jones.  I made a big deal about this a couple of times in the first half of the manuscript.  Yet when she’s actually racing through the jungle, chased by demons, and nearly drowning in a dark cave, I never once had her go hmmm, maybe grading and lecturing isn’t so bad.

Fix Phase 3. Go through manuscript and watch for slight moments of humor.  Make sure it’s centralized with Jaid.  Amplify if it makes sense.  Watch for moments of high action followed by a quiet moment.  See if it makes sense to drop in a comment.  Mention “Un-Indiana Jones” at least one or more times in the high action events of the climax to bring it all together.

Yay, one bullet done!  How many more do I have to make? *groans*

Actually, I’m almost done.  The humor one was one of the hardest to fix (other than the name change), because I had that moment of panic.  Last night, I had to fix the reunion with Jaid’s father.  I’d totally gone off the deep end in the last revision (to make it romance) and the sap was just oozing all over everywhere.  Ugh.  I think I made it more realistic, and even opened myself up for all sorts of good stuff in the next book.

Final:  Once I make all the changes, I’ll create a new copy of the manuscript just for me.  I’ll accept all the changes, delete any comments, and read it one more time.  I actually prefer to use Google Mail’s “read as html” option for this phase (which is why I remove the comments).  Seeing it outside a Word doc just gives me more clean space to see how it’s really going to read.

This gives me the chance to look for formatting problems (sometimes it’s hard to see paragraph breaks when Track Changes are on), as well as check the flow and make sure I didn’t break anything. 

So by the time this revision pass is all over, I bet I’ll have read the manuscript AGAIN at least five more times.  I’ll read it at least one more time for the copy-edit phase, and we may have more than one revision pass before we get there.

So yeah, “one-pass revision” just doesn’t work for me.

3 thoughts on “Revision Xibalba

  1. I can kinda do a one-pass revision, since I have yet to get editors’ notes… Actually, no I can’t. Because I do get beta/crit partner notes.

    My pre-crit work, though, is very similar to Holly’s One-Pass Revision. I do one very detailed pass through before I send out the MSS to be looked at by other people, and then I do several more passes with their notes in hand. It’s all a blend, I guess.

  2. I always thought Holly Lisle’s one revision thing was prior to her getting stuff back from editors. Even then, I can’t imagine going through just once and saying it’s done, or as done as it’s gonna be, LOL

  3. To be fair, you’re probably right – Holly’s talking about her revisions, not an editor’s revisions, but it still doesn’t work for me. I’m ashamed to admit publicly how many passes I’ve made through this story before even submitting it! Yet it was necessary. I can’t get the depth of worldbuilding, details, and emotions without concentrating on each layer individually.

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