Thursday, October 21, 2010

Revisions, Why Art Thou So Hard?

Posted by Susan Kaye Quinn.

I'm working on Draft 2 of the WiP, and just realized that a whole section of my plot is, shall we say, weak.

I'm staring at the character motivation, sequence of events, and general logic of about 10k of prose and thinking, You know, that really doesn't make any sense at all.


I know this is what revisions are for. I also know I'm capable of plotting a better story between word 25,000 and word 35,000 - especially since that's a critical launching off point for the rest of the book. All it will take is time, effort, and possibly a few bad words. I'm even considering hauling out a giant piece of butcher paper and outlining the darn thing. Which I've never done (my outlines are always digital), so you know it's bad.

But first, I'm going to have a cup of tea and think a bit about it.

What's your approach when facing a rewrite that's a lot more than tracking down errant adverbs or getting rid of cliches?


  1. Oh, I am so in the thick of it with you! I have to grab the whip and chains and force myself to sit down and tackle the hard stuff. As for reworking areas that are a problem, I have great freinds who give great feedback. *Sigh* I guess I'll go work on my problem area right now.

  2. @Jonene My awesome crit group's given me some great ideas, so that totes helps. I may need to borrow the whip, however. ;)

  3. Since I'm not an outliner (I'm more of a broad-idea-now-write kind of writer), I know the pain of the evil Revision Hell all too intimately.
    I always have to sharpen my teeth and rip out large chunks, sob a little, and then rewrite. My revisions are NEVER merely searching for adverbs and cliches.
    Oh no, my revisions are lengthy, painful endeavors with months of slogging and wading through plot holes, festering over every detail and word choice.
    But this is how my process goes.
    Revisions, thou sucketh.
    And I'm knee-deep in revision hell right now, too. *sigh*
    Good luck! (I bet you beat me to the finish line. I'm a slow reviser and polisher.)

  4. Good luck with your revisions, Lola! We'll share our purgatory. :)

  5. Ha! I feel your pain! I've been avoiding a problem area all week. Sigh. I guess I should face the beast. Wishing us all luck. :)

  6. I'm not an outliner either... When it comes to revisions, I take the wonderful advice from my crit group and apply it to my book. I try to watch out for cliches and adverbs while I'm writing, so I don't have to go back and fix them all. I do go over every word, and every sentence though, adding stronger words instead of keeping weak ones. Making dialogue stronger and finding plot holes. I actually enjoy the editing/revising part of writing a book, since it gets me so much closer to getting it ready to submit! :) Good luck with your WIP!!:)

  7. Tough one! I'd have to do a timeline and outline to piece it all together

  8. Loved this post, Sue! That part about not making any sense really made me laugh. I have so been there. Recently.

    Good luck with the butcher paper - I've found it a good exercise. Not a fix-all, but I usually notice something I'd missed before. And I bet everything you need for the story is already there, just waiting for you to find it. That makes the "thinking break" a good idea too.

  9. @Leisha and Chantele and PK Thanks for the support!

    @Rebecca I'm working on it today (and last night, and in my sleep). I think you're right - it's all there, just in the wrong places. Plus there's more than needs to be added in to round it out. I feel like I'm sculpting, which is frightening, because I'm not at all artistic! :)

  10. Perhaps you meant "crafty" with that last comment. I don't know about you, but I consider writing a fine piece of art. I'll just pretend you meant "crafy" or "not at all good with my hands".

    Revisions are a pain. I genuinely think I don't officially finish anything because I'm so scared of them. One look at a rough draft and my mind goes blank with a giant "Now what?" hanging over my head.

    But best of luck to you! Keep on trekkin'!

  11. @KL You are right that I meant "crafty." Being an ex-engineer, I still struggle with the artist label applied to what I do with the writing, but it is true. :)

  12. Maybe I should just keep it to myself that I LOVE revising. So much that sometimes I wonder if I should have been an editor.

    But that first edit--when the manuscript still has morning breath and bed head hair--that can be hard to face.

    Gotta believe there's something beautiful under all the ugly. And it is so fun to see the beauty shine through more and more with each revision.

  13. Hi Sue! *Hugs* I know your pain, girl! What I do is after writing the first draft up, I set it aside for a while. Four, or five weeks. I do hide my face with embarrassment quite a bit (LOL) but I basically rewrite the entire thing once going through it again.

    I do have a list of great friends that are willing to read it for me--my alpha readers. They can tell me what makes sense and pick it apart without dissensitized eyes like mine. Ugh...

    Then I go through it again looking for a good balance of internalization, dialogue, visceral reaction/emotion, description along with hooks, powering up my word usage, strengthening MC resolve... I look for cliches too and echo words and all that good stuff.

    It's never ending. I do wish you the best, though!!!

    Thanks for the very VERY provoking post!


  14. @Rebecca You know I love this story, when I never even question that the beauty is there under the ugly! LOL

    @Elizabeth My process keeps evolving, but I am finding that each draft has a different focus. This is only the second draft so there is a lot of cut/chop/wholesale rewrites. I'm thinking I should write a post on my whole drafting process - it sounds similar to what you describe, but it might help others to share, too.

    Thanks for the encouragement! :)

  15. lose myself in music for a while and think about my people rather than the story. Works for me every time.

  16. Sue, I want to read your post on your drafting process. I'm trying to create my own drafting Magna Carta right now to make sure I don't skip important steps, like READING THROUGH ONCE WITHOUT MARKING ANYTHING. I've got a twitchy trigger finger on my red pen.

  17. @Jolene That sounds like all kinds of nice!

    @Rebecca I need to write that up, while I have it in my head! And I hear you, with the twitchy finger!!


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