Write on Wednesday-Revision and Retreat

Last November, I participated in the madness that is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and completed a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. In all honesty, I was quite surprised to have finished. I fully expected this project to end up on the cutting room floor, as they say in the movies, as so many of my other ill-fated bright ideas have a way of doing. But I did finish the novel, and it was a coherent story all the way through – in other words, I didn’t cheat and start writing gibberish just to make my word count. As a matter of fact, the last 10 pages are, to me, the best part of the whole book.

Anyway, after I uploaded the final draft on November 30, I promptly hit Ctrl-S and I haven’t given it a thought since. That it, until I ran into a friend from church who told me she was in the process of revising her first novel, while beginning to write her second. She happened to have “won” the services of a writing mentor for one year, and was utilizing this to help her with revisions. She meets with her mentor, a novelist and professor of creative writing, who advises her on ways to make the characters stronger, advance the plot line, and generally help decide what works and what doesn’t.

I started thinking about pulling out my little book to see what I’ve got. So, I printed it all out (88 pages, Arial 11, single spaced) and put it in a bright yellow folder. Yesterday morning, while enjoying my morning coffee, I gathered my courage and started reading.

It was a really interesting experience for me, because I had written it all in such a frenzy last November, that I had completely forgotten most of what I’d written about. Of course, I recalled the basic plot, but I had totally forgotten most of the details and how I had moved the story along from point A to B. I found myself getting quite interested in this story, simply because I had forgotten so much of it in the whirlwind to get it done.

Having re-read most of it, I’m now thinking it might be worth revising. Trouble is, I have no idea where to start, and unlike my friend, I don’t have a professional mentor to help me along.
Revisions are always a problem for me – I have a hard time seeing where things are wrong and thinking of ways to fix them. It’s part of my personality I think ~ in general, I’m quite easy going, and tend to be happy with the status quo. So it’s hard for me to read with a critical eye – even my own stuff. I mean, I know it’s not perfect, I just don’t know what’s wrong with it!

In the coming weeks, I’ll be perusing my writing library for some advice on how to go about this business of revision. In the meantime, I’ll be on a little retreat, starting tomorrow, as we’re traveling to Miami to attend my daughter-in-law’s “swearing-in” as an official American citizen 🙂

So, how about you? Do you have a revision process that works for you? Have you read any good “how to” advice about revising?


10 thoughts on “Write on Wednesday-Revision and Retreat

  1. I haven’t written any long pieces like a novel, so I don’t know about revising such as that. It sounds hard. But I imagine that if you send it out to some writer friends they might be helpful. I belong to a poetry group that meets once or twice a month and we read our work to each other, gaining insight from the others in the group on how to make a poem work better. Beyond that I think that reading and writing from the deep well of your heart often shows us where we need to go with any particular piece.

    I hope you have a wonderful trip!

  2. No words of wisdom on the revision front. I doubt I will even read my novella again (but it’s still there!).

    Wishing you and your husband safe travels as you celebrate with Apple.

  3. I’ve never finished anything longer than articles, but my process is to leave it, not look at it for a few days/weeks and then go back and read it. The needed editing usually jumps off the page at me.
    Kudos to you for finishing a whole book!
    Definitely tweak it!
    And have a fun trip!!

  4. Hope you have a wonderful trip – such a fantastic celebration for B and your daughter-in-law! As for revisions, I’ve spent my whole life doing revisions as an editor myself and being edited at newspapers, magazines, etc. For me, it’s no longer difficult to cut things from stories; sometimes less is more. But a book is another issue – it’s always useful having a second set of eyes to “critique” your work – they’ll see things you don’t, as they’re approaching the piece from another perspective.

  5. Oh good for you Becca! I have a really good book somewhere about revising … haven’t seen it in years but it’s the best thing I ever read on the subject so if I can dig it out of the right box, I’ll pass the info on.

    John Gardner’s Self Editing for Fiction Writers is good, if you haven’t read that. I recommend that even to my non fiction clients.

  6. Yikes, I haven’t written anything longer than 15 pages and haven’t done enough revising to have anything to offer. On shorter pieces I just keep re-reading and tweaking – not sure I’d call that any kind of official revision – but it helps get it cleaned up enough to not horrify me.

    Have a wonderful trip and celebration.

  7. …first of all Congratulations on completing your novel with Nanawrimo. I’m planning to participate this year so I may be riding your shoulders as buddy (cheeze). I’m just beginning to write my first novel so I really don’t know what to tell you yet. I do have a couple of books by my side that is leading the path as I write, and one book in particular is the Novel Writer’s Toolkit by Bob Mayer. I also have The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman but that’s about it. Maybe I’ll learn from you when it’s time for my revision.

    Wishing you well during your writing process.

  8. Ooh, this post is RIGHT up my alley, as I’m trying to start the revisions to my first Nano novel even as I attempt to finish my second. There is a book I really like, called Revision, a Creative Approach to Writing and Rewriting Fiction, by David Michael Kaplan. He offers advice on cutting if you are an overwriter, adding if you underwrite (the way I do),restructuring your plot, etc. I also just finished a book called “Beginnings, Middles, and Endings” by Nancy Kress–VERY helpful about getting unstuck in the middle (and offers some good advice on revising it as well).

    “Revising Fiction” by David Kaplan is basically a WHOLE bunch of questions to ask yourself as you work through your manuscript. A little dense, but good stuff.

    “Writing Fiction” by Janet Burroway (one of the BEST writing books I have ever read, and I have read SO MANY) has a very good chapter on revising.

    Hope this helps…maybe we can help each other through this. 🙂

  9. For me I leave it for awhile also. I have writing friends that I meet with or email my stuff to and then we conference. That helps me the most. On Writing by Stephen King was an invaluable book on writing for me. Also, After the End- Teaching and Learning Creative Revision by Barry Lane is for teachers and students, but many writers have found it helpful also. Congrats on your accomplishment.

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