Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Revision-Go-Round

I'm back in school now and teachin' America's youth about Puritans and witch trials and how their either/or fallacies continue to haunt us today—and I'm also in revision mode on book 4 of The Iron Druid Chronicles. It's kind of odd to talk about real people hanging other real people for being witches during the day, but then go home at night and write about fictional witches battling fictional Druids in Arizona...

Thought I'd share a wee bit about the revision process—keeping in mind that this is my process, and every author's going to be different in the details. What's common to every author is the necessity of revision. No one drops their pants and poops out the perfect novel. Well, maybe somebody does. But they're not in the League. #345 on our 500-question entrance exam reads: "Do you poop perfect novels?" If they answer the question, they're disqualified. Anyone who gets all the way to #345 is way too serious to be in this group.

Revision: I go through several drafts o' my books before the editor ever sees it. I write at least three drafts (but usually more) before I'm okay with sending it off. Nevertheless, that third or fourth or tenth draft is always "Version One" once it gets to my editor's desk. Then, depending on the book, I'll have to revise it two to four more times before it gets "Accepted." During those revisions the book gets larger—I haven't had to cut anything yet; I always need to expand. Some authors work the other way and have to cut quite a bit—it's all good.

I've actually been keeping track of word counts during this particular book for the heck of it. When I finished my "first draft" of TRICKED, it was only 72,300 words. By the time I wrote subsequent drafts, it was up to 81,666, and that's how I delivered it. After the editorial letter came back, I hammered away at the keyboard until version two was 90,345 words. Got some more feedback, and yesterday I sent off version three at 99,487 words. That's actually much more expansion than I've done in the past, but every book is different. So I'm not quite finished getting this in shape, but even after "Acceptance" I'll have more revision to do. Copy edits require another close look at the book, and then once it's typeset you have to go through it again. It's a long process.

Some of my favorite reviews (of any book) are those that talk about the "natural prose" or some other similar phrase that implies the author wrote it that way the first time. Nobody writes that perfectly. Getting that "natural, flowing prose" or whatever onto the page took them several attempts and most likely many attempts, together with a damn fine editor and probably plenty of caffeine and/or booze. Occasional breaks to pet/walk the dogs help tremendously.

If you're an aspiring writer, I hope you're having a great time writing your current draft! But don't get too attached to those words just yet...

3 comments:

Roxanne Skelly said...

Darn. I answered #345 first as it contains the word 'poop.'

I'm still in the middle of my personal revisions of my WIP, and I'm finding it's like swimming through molas...no, it's like swimming through poop.

I wasn't expecting it to be this much work. I'm spending twice as much time on revising than on the initial draft. Slashing. Adding 'glue'. Changing plotlines and characters. And tuning language. Ugh. Then again, once I've revised a chapter, it's a great feeling.

(Especially that last transition chapter. what a bitch)

While I know revising is hard, I'm wondering if I'm making unnecessary work for myself. Any advice on streamlining the process? Bad revision habits?

Kevin Hearne said...

Hopefully you finished a full draft (you got to the end) before you began the revision process? Beyond that, I'd advise you to focus on the good feeling you get when you're finished. You know the book is better, and it's worth the work. Also, you'll get faster at it over time; you'll get attuned to the mistakes you commonly make and cease to make them (hopefully) and that will speed up the process too. All my best to you—keep writing! :)

freelance troubleshooter said...

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Who the HELL Do We Think We Are?

We're a bunch of paranormal romance and urban fantasy authors who occasionally blog, make filthy jokes and prowl the halls of conferences and conventions with switchblades!

Current roster: Mario Acevedo, Michele Bardsley, Sonya Bateman, Dakota Cassidy, Carolyn Crane, Molly Harper, Kevin Hearne, Mark Henry, Stacia Kane, Jackie Kessler, J.F. Lewis, Daniel Marks, Richelle Mead, Kelly Meding, Allison Pang, Nicole Peeler, Kat Richardson, Michelle Rowen, Diana Rowland, Jeanne C. Stein, K.A. Stewart, Anton Strout, and Jaye Wells

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