Some Notes on Revising

I just spent more or less the entire weekend sitting in a recliner and revising my book, and I couldn’t possibly feel any crazier for the experience.  Daylight saving’s time didn’t help either, because it was all of a sudden 4am, and then I woke up at 9am and kept on going.  I feel like I just went on a bender with someone I’m in a horrifying and destructive relationship with – we broke up and made up over and over for a period of days, and once we came down, we couldn’t even look at each other anymore.

I’m not sure this is a great way to feel about my book.

But the revision is coming along pretty well!  I worked my way through the end of the book, improbably adding about 12,000 words (weird?!), and I’ve got a strategy for the final revision pieces:

– There are a couple of chapters that need some serious re-writing early in the book, so, that.  But I know what I’m going to change with them, so, yay.

– Go through the notes I have from my writing group (etc.), make a bunch of sentence and paragraph level changes, and otherwise cinch up minor plot-like elements.  (I’ve already been working a lot with the critiques I’ve received that are larger in scope).

– Do the couple of specific read-throughs that I have notes about (these are context specific, so I won’t bore you [or myself]).

– Perform an ensimplification wherever possible.  I’m becoming more and more aware of the fact that I’m about equally likely to write a sentence that I think is quite nice, or a sentence that kind of spirals away from me.  These sentences are pretty unsatisfying to read, and I’m feeling a lot less precious about them.  My ancillary goal here would be to cut the word count by 5-10%.  I don’t think that will be hard at all.

– Do one last spellcheckish kind of read-through just to make sure I have all my there/their/they’re stuff in order.

And that’s that!  I expect I’ll wrap up by end of March.  Then I’ll have only spent 19 months on the book.  In hindsight, this seems like about 6 months longer than it probably should have taken, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it.  It’s my first book, and I definitely spent a lot of time just figuring out a lot of stuff I shouldn’t keep doing when trying to write a book.

Regardless of whatever comes of this particular book, I definitely feel like I can write an entire book from an initially not-very-well conceived notion in about a year.  That’s not nothing.

If you need me, I’ll be weeping over there.

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4 Responses to Some Notes on Revising

  1. Linda says:

    Not that I’ve written tons more books than you, but it gets easier! Especially after experiencing what you’re going through right now, you’ll know what to avoid. You’re creating a whole new world and that’s a lot of building! If you need any assistance with ensimplificating? You know where to find me…I’m just simple girl weeping in the other corner over my book. 🙂

  2. diana2261 says:

    Honestly, I’m impressed at your ability to stick to a task for an entire weekend — this is the second time you’ve done this since I’ve known you (at least, that you’ve talked about in a forum where I’d hear about it ;)) My writing and revising tend to get done in one-hour chunks packed in around other things.

    As far as revising goes — I think you’re absolutely right, that the first draft of any project (especially early in our writing careers) is going to be a chunk of figuring out what belongs in the book and what doesn’t. Trust me, I feel your pain there. 😉 It’s awesome that you’ve reached the point where you’re able to step back and KNOW what you think belongs and what doesn’t, and get on with making the changes to make the book more the way you want it to be.

    Oh, and as far as spending 19 months on the book… anyone who can go from concept to query letter in that time frame has earned my undying awe. I’m coming up on the one-year mark for my novel, and in that time I’ve written a first third that will probably be three-quarters scrapped by the final draft… and that’s to say nothing of the 6 years of scribbling that got me to this point… 😉 I’d say 19 months is pretty darn good!

    • mattllavin says:

      Well, the content I’m wrestling is a lot smaller than what you’ve got on your hands, but I appreciate you saying that! I do the one-hour chunk thing too, I just don’t always feel productive when I’m doing that. And I never set out to binge-write; it just happens.

  3. Skye says:

    4 1/2 years. You have me far, far bested.

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