Tuesday, May 25, 2010

FOR WRITERS: Revisions & Knowing Thyself

I shared this with my editor not long ago, and since she appeared to appreciate it, I thought I’d share this with other writers, especially for those of you who may have recently published and are getting your first set of revisions.

Spare your editor the drama.

Fortunately, my previous editor would email me any revisions, so I managed to be (painfully) aware of how I react to them. I am overwhelmed. My mind immediately starts spinning with how I’m going to incorporate them into the manuscript. Often when you change one thing, be it ever so minor, it affects events all throughout the rest of the work. Will I manage to spot them all? How will this affect the flow of my writing, particularly since I write so organically? What are the ramifications to my characters’ emotional arc when those changes are incorporated? How will the changes alter the magical rules of my world, and will this affect the logistics of the plot?

Keep in mind, I usually get very few revisions.

I am a perfectionist. This is not always a good thing, and I’m aware of it. I also have this illogical urge to make everything right. Right now. I’m given weeks to work on the revisions, so there’s no reason for me to try to work them out all in my head right at that moment. But sure enough, I do it every time.

So I have learned to read through my revisions and then put them away for twenty-four hours. My response to my editor would be, “Thank you kindly. I’ll get back to you with any questions.” And then as I let my mind cogitate on the changes, I will realize that yes, I can easily add this change here. And yes, I can top that last love scene with something like this…and yes, that’s a terrific idea to make the character more appealing to my reader.

With all of my books, there have only been one or two changes that I felt didn’t work for the manuscript, but I made sure I felt strongly about them (which meant, I gave them much thought over several days). Each time--once I explained my reasons to my editor-- they agreed with me, and the changes were not incorporated.

So, now I have a new editor, and she prefers to go over the revisions on the phone.


But I knew exactly how I would react, and prepared myself to respond with nothing but a smile and an “okay”. I would not let any of the suggested revisions sink into my little brain. I would let them roll off my back without really considering them until I received her follow-up email. I was determined. And I managed it.

My editor was kind of like, “Uh, Kathryne? What do you think?” And I would respond with perhaps a few sentences and an “Okay.” I think I kind of confused her there, until we started talking over dinner at a conference, and I explained our limited ‘revision’ conversation on the phone. But I would rather have had her confused over my reaction than subject her to the drama.

And you know what? She felt the same way.

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