Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Revision Diaries (5)

I never give myself enough time. I like to set deadlines-- I will be done with the draft by this day, or I'll send it off to betas by that day-- but I never give myself the proper amount of time.

I had a secret goal that I would be querying by the middle of April.

(Pause for laughter)

Now I can see ridiculous that is. I'll be happy to finish revisions by that time. And then, after I get beta feedback, I'll have more revisions. Then, after the story and characters are solid, I'll go through another round or two of line edits and focus on the language and words and sentence structure.

So, yes. Lots of time before I'm ready to query.

Just today I realized I'll have to rewrite chapter two. Again.

I was never very happy with it. It did what I wanted it to. It moved the story from the new ending of chapter one to the beginning of chapter three. But it wasn't very good. Now, thanks to a great epiphany, I know exactly what to do to make it work.

That's the thing about revisions. You can't rush it. Sometimes you just need time to pass-- days, weeks, months-- for the solution to make itself known.

But the catch, of course, is that this epiphany involves deleting about half the chapter and writing a whole new scene from scratch.

Which is hard. I don't like deleting scenes and starting over. It's a lot of work. But the story will be so much better for it. And, as daunting as it seems, I feel like I owe it to my story and my characters. I have to do the best I can, not the best I care to do as long as it's easy.

At this point, I'm happy with most of my story. But there are bits and pieces I'm not pleased with, and I don't know how to fix those. Yet. I'll just keep working on it until I know. I get closer every day.

Do you set unrealistic deadlines for yourself?
How do you stay sane in the face of all this daunting hard work?


  1. I do that too. And I never make my deadline and then I get upset. But, I've come to realize rushing through is not the answer. After all, what are we rushing for? Sometimes, time can be our best friend.

    Good luck!!

  2. Kat,

    Oh sweetie, I feel your pain. It's like you and I were separated at literary birth or something. Let's not call them unrealistic deadlines, by optimistic ones. (that sounds better ;) I do the same thing and then get crushed when I realize how much work is left to be done. When that happens I take a week or two off to read some books and recharge my brain juices. By the end of the break I'm ready to go another round.

    I've also decided to try revising sections around 500 words at a time. I revise it over and over until I really like it, then I move on to the next small section. It feels a LOT less daunting that way. Then, when I've finished an entire chapter that way, I look at it as a whole to make sure everything matches up right. Chin up, girl. You'll get there.

    P.S. I hope you'll stop by my blog today for Wee-Bit Wednesday! :)

  3. I do the same thing. My deadlines never really give me enough time. In a perfect world where my book would just fall together in a sensible manner, the deadline would be fine, but I never calculate enough contemplation time. I try to stay sane by taking it one day at a time (and making extended deadlines lol) Great post!

  4. I laughed, but only because I thought I would be querying by the beginning of March!

  5. I think we all do this. My eyes are always bigger than my...brain? Bite off more than I can chew? Well, you know what I mean.

    I always have visions of grandeur that I can get it done faster.
    Until I realize I have to rip out 20,000 words and rewrite a few chapters to get the plot hole patched.
    Revisions can be painful.
    Honestly, my revisions take longer than my first draft.
    (perhaps because I don't outline ;)

    Good luck. Keep plugging away.

  6. Yeah, I've got a deadline to finish my WIP by the end of April. Good luck to me! But I recently posted about this and how I need to slow myself down and enjoy the process more. So now I'm hoping by summer I can get my first draft done. Good luck with revisions!

  7. I feel like I owe it to my story and my characters. I have to do the best I can, not the best I care to do as long as it's easy.

    This is absolutely the truth! The book you want to query must be the best it can possibly be, and that means hard choices and setbacks, but thats part of the process. I'm glad to see that you've embraced that concept.

    I'm an outliner...not a most of my editing is for grammar and sentence structure, which is so much easier then re-writing entire chapters. My deadlines...when I impose them on myself...are very liberal. I'm not in any hurry and I don't need them to stay motivated.

    But that doesn't mean I don't go a bit insane every now and then! :)

  8. I've promised myself no deadlines with my current WiP. It will be done when it's done.

    In the past I've rushed, including querying things that so weren't ready to be queried. I'm trying not to make those mistakes again.

    Good luck with it all. I can't wait to read it!!

  9. How do you stay sane in the face of daunting work? When asked the secret of his success, the world's greatest potato-peeler remarked, "I peel 'em one potato at a time."

    Do the best you can with the time alloted to you, knowing you can't be perfect but you can be valiant. Dare to be valiant.

    A thought about revising your 2nd chapter -- or any chapter actually -- skim through the rest of your novel to make sure the changes you made haven't made some point further on your novel mute or confusing because of your additions or subtractions. Or see if logical consequences of said revisions are missing in the rest of the novel. Just a thought.

    Thanks for the kind comments about my short story THE LIES LOCUST TELL on my blog. Have a pleasing day, Roland

  10. Ha... you can't say my name and "writing" in the same sentence without unrealistic deadlines sandwiched in the middle! My writing process involves big spurts of productivity followed by month long dry spells... and I still don't know how to handle the dry spells. Even when I'm not feeling it, I want to get things done quickly so I can move on to something else.

    The craziest deadline I set for myself in the last few months? I wanted to get a 10,000 word chapter finished in two days. At the end I tucked my tail in and hid under the bed, defeated.

    I hate deleting and rewriting too. It just seems so... wasteful. If I made a cake that didn't turn out quite right, I'd still eat it. I know it's not nearly the same thing, but still!

    The only way I stay afloat among the work is by thinking about how wonderful my story will be once it's finished. Even if rewriting is hard, thinking about the end makes it all worthwhile.

    Jade makes a good point, though. I think you should make deadlines in order to stay on track, but if you don't satisfy the requirements exactly on time, I don't think you should give yourself a hard time. It'll be finished when it's finished. Haste makes waste! :)

  11. Good post topic.

    Since becoming a parent, I have failed at more deadlines than I want to confess to. I think each failure forces me to better organize my thoughts and improve my planning--hopefully showing improvement for the next time.