Here’s something most people know about publishing: you keep a lot of secrets. At any given time, an author might be holding on to unannounced film/TV rights, book deal news, tour information, festival appearances . . . the list goes on and on. The reason behind all of this secret-keeping may vary widely, from the film studio not announcing projects until they’re officially in production to timing particular news just right, so they’ll make a big impact (and hopefully, big sales).
In late May of 2016, I knew I was going to finally be a published author, but I couldn’t tell anyone until October. Almost FIVE MONTHS of silence, of unreleased energy and excitement that had to be channeled somewhere. So, being me, I decided to spend that time and nervous energy researching and learning everything there was to know about being an author.
I read up on Bookscan and how sales are reported. I studied the blog posts of established authors, hoping to get a clue on what life was like after the deal. I looked up Twitter threads and articles discussing how to handle reviews, how much money to save from your advance for taxes, and whether you really need a different signature for autographing books (the consensus? It’s a good idea).
Most importantly of all, I watched YouTube videos. I studied the way other authors communicated with the interviewer, spoke in front of an audience of anywhere from three to three hundred people, how they dressed, how they held themselves, how they answered questions, deflected questions, and what sorts of questions readers or interviewers were asking them.
Despite all of that preparation, when I was finally thrown into the ring and started doing events of my own, I was asked over and over again about my revision process. It kind of threw me for a loop, because most of the videos I’d watched had people asking “What inspired you?” (easy, I could handle that) or “How young were you when you first started writing?” (simple) or “Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? What other jobs did you have first?” (no problem, I could wax poetic for hours on end about my journey).
But the question I repeatedly got, to my surprise, was: “How do you revise a book?”
Here’s my dirty secret: I hate revising. Most writers love it because it feels productive, it’s often less scary because you have something on the page to work with (as opposed to drafting), and it produces a manuscript that is heads and shoulders above what the rough project once was. I understand why other people love it, and I appreciate these aspects.
But I find revising so M-E-S-S-Y. You’re shuffling scenes, you’re deleting entire paragraphs if not pages, you’re fixing one small detail only to have to search for the ripples that will inevitably occur throughout the book as a result, you’re rewriting, you’re rephrasing, you’re tearing your hair out and crying into a bucket of wine (that last one might just be me. But you get the picture).
However, I get asked about revising a LOT, and I’ve grown to have a tough love sort of relationship with the process. And because it’s something I routinely teach at most of my workshops, from the ones at the Highlights Foundation to other opportunities like the Ireland Writer Tours retreat, I thought it might be a good idea to do a whole series on revisions here on Publishing Crawl.
How do I revise? Where to start? How to handle editorial letters or critique partner feedback? How to decide what advice to take and what to leave? How to parse all of that into a somewhat coherent book?
So this post will be the first of FIVE that will discuss all of those topics. And, of course, if you have any questions or anything else you’d like me to cover, please feel free to put your suggestions in the comments and I will try to tackle those if possible! I hope you’ll stick around for each post, but just in case there are particular subjects you’re most interested in, here is the posting schedule:
Monday, September 23: My Revision Process – No one method of revising will work for everyone, but it can be helpful to see how another writer does it. I know I’ve read about another person’s process and borrowed what worked for me or left what didn’t. So I’ll share exactly what I do, from getting an edit letter to completion.
Wednesday, October 23: Getting Eyes On Your Work – I will talk about why a rough draft is important, and how to find the right eyes for your manuscript, whether those belong to a critique partner (CP), a beta reader, or an expert reader. I’ll also talk about cultivating a CP relationship that works for all parties.
Friday, November 22: Making Edits Manageable – I’ll discuss what to do when you get your edit letter (and how that sense of fear and dread when you get it is NORMAL) and how to break it and your book up into chunks, to make the whole process a little bit more enjoyable for yourself in addition to being productive.
Monday, December 16: In the Public Eye – I’m going to talk about handling feedback and reviews as an author and a public figure, and how to deal with your book being out there and all the opinions/viewpoints that ensue!
Hope you’ll check these posts out, and I hope they’ll provide a bit of helpful insight and encouragement, if you’re in need of either of those things.
See you back here in September!