Finding My Way Out Of The Eternal Revision Roundabout

Did you ever get the feeling that you were NEVER going to finish your revisions?

I’m definitely feeling that way these days, as you might be able to tell from my runner-up titles for this post, including:

  • Another Bloody Round Of Revisions?
  • Fighting Past A Bad Case Of The I-Don’t-Wannas
  • Holy BLEEP, When Will My Revisions End?

My novel has been written and polished for years. I queried it. I got rejected. Lots of form rejections and a couple requests that turned into nothing. So, I’ve revised and queried, and revised again.

You know I’ve talked about the editing spiral before. I’ve been here and wrestled with this time and time again.

Every time I finish a draft, I think I’m done. (Well, every draft since the third draft. You don’t want to be too hasty.)

This is my eighth round of revisions, and seeing as how I applied for a mentor in January, it’s only fitting that I should be revising again with her help.

I’ve been working with Leona Wisoker since February. And with her help, I’m adding a lot of sensory details and working on tightening my plot. My main character can get stuck in her own head pretty easily, and — for the sake of both the characters and the readers — it’s best to have her look up once in awhile.

I feel pretty confident in my characters, my world building, and my story. I just need help to take my second-world fantasy from a light read to something that will linger in the minds of the reader.

And Leona’s help is wonderful. I’m THRILLED to be working with her. (If you’re interested, she’s currently open to clients at editor@leonawisoker.com)

BUT.

It means I’m doing another round of revisions when all I want to do is query and pitch and dream of The Call.

I wanted my story to be ready so badly. I’ve been working on this story since 2013, with a full draft in hand for nearly five YEARS.

You always hear about how most writers first novels are practice books that deserve to be in a drawer. I’m scared that the reason I’m still working this novel is because I won’t give up, when there’s no chance for this story to succeed.

The market is too crowded. Everyone has a book these days.

Yet, then I think back to those who have read it. My beta readers enjoyed it, my critique partners cheered for the story. The worst anyone’s ever said is “it’s clear this is an early draft” when I thought I was done. Back around draft five. (You thought I’d forgotten that, didn’t you. You know who you are.)

Everytime I want to throw in the towel on this round of revisions, I read my latest chapter and find myself filled with something warm and exuberant. Something that feels a lot like pride.

If I didn’t feel that sense of improvement, of rightness, after a round of revisions on a chapter, I would stop. But this is why I write.

As long as I feel at the end of the day that what I have after the effort is better than what I had before, I’m going to keep revising. Where I can take a chapter from merely telling a story to bringing the reader along for the ride.

That’s what I want.

And I’m getting closer, every day.

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Top 5 Fears When Facing Feedback

Earlier this month, I sent my synopsis to my mentor. Sunday, she sent it back with feedback and I eagerly– spent the rest of the day avoiding it.

I had dived into her comments on my first chapter. I don’t usually hesitate to read feedback.

What was different this time?

The synopsis lay my story out cleanly. In 3 pages, my mentor could see my entire plot. My characters’ motivations. Everything.

My Top Five Fears:

5. Just didn’t connect

The most common and frustrating reaction from agents — the pure defeat of “I just didn’t connect with the story/characters/plot”.

But, as a mentor, she’s going to give some sort of feedback. What if she suggests it go in a completely different direction, that doesn’t work for me or my characters?

What if she insisted I was telling a different story than I had? Or thought a different story would be more compelling to agents?

4. Found it confusing

Sometimes agents don’t connect because they can’t understand what’s going on. What if my mentor didn’t get my story because my writing was confusing? The motivations didn’t make sense and the sequence of events was unclear.

3. Found it too formulaic

Perhaps, she could have thought it was decently written, but something she’s seen a thousand times, with nothing unique for us to build on, to draw the agents and publishers in.

2. Found it too contrived

A critique-partner had already told me back in December that one of my plot points felt a bit too contrived. What if my mentor agreed, and thought MORE of the plot felt forced and contrived?

1. Found a massive plot hole

What if there was some logic my story was missing that broke the whole thing?

That would be a LOT of work. I’m emotionally prepared for edits and polishing, but a MASSIVE restructuring of my story would definitely knock me back on my heels.


With all that weighing on me? I indulged my cold *sniffles hard*, binge-watched tv, and avoided reading her email.

Finally, just after midnight, I gave in and opened the email.

No plot holes, just some clarification needed and slightly better justification for an almost contrived point.

I cleaned up my draft, sent it off, and I talked with her just before I wrote this post. She likes my story, loves my world building, and was pleased that I could justify just about everything in that synopsis.


How do you handle feedback? Is the stress worse than the reality of it?

When Your Fantasy Novel Sounds Too Modern

When You Need To Fix Your Language

I finished my copy-edit on my 5th round of revisions Tuesday night! So, I’m ready to go back to the querying!

Except, first – I’ve got a new critique partner doing a quick read through to check for blatant errors and things that might confuse new readers. That’s the sad thing with any reader, they can only read it for the first time, once.

However, last week, when my eyes weren’t quite recovered enough for focused editing, I decided to fix my language. Sometimes, when I can’t make coherent progress on the story itself, I’ll go through and look for problematic words.

Editing Out Filler words (and passive voice)

I’ve done it before with filler words and passive voice. Using search and remove or replace to lower the number of uses of each:

  • just
  • that
  • felt/believed/thought
  • all forms of ‘to be’ (am, is, was, were, be, being, been..)

This time, though? This time I was fixing an issue with my voice. I love Lilyen and her voice and her family, but sometimes? She sounds like a regular girl. Which would be great, except I’m writing fantasy.

There are certain tropes that are expected when you write fantasy, and one is that the language should sound… for want of a better word. Archaic. More polite.

Ways I Made My Language More Fantastic

  • Step 1 – I googled ‘formal English’ and ‘polite language’
  • Step 2 – I replaced informal words with more formal ones, particularly during dialogue
  • Step 3 – As I read along the paragraphs around those edits, I looked for other phrases that stuck out as ‘too modern’ and replaced those as well.

NOTE! I didn’t replace every word the same way, it took finesse to convey the proper meaning. If the pre-suggested word from google didn’t work, I went to my handy-dandy thesaurus and looked up synonyms (or googled them).

Here are some of the more widespread words I converted and some of the things I converted them into.

modernToFormal

Hopefully my new critique partner won’t find too many sentences that got TOO stilted to fit in.


How have you changed your language for your setting?

Wrestling With Revisions

Wrestling with Revisions

Sometimes when revising with an editor, you can run into conflicts.

I’ve been almost stalling on my current section of revisions: my editor suggested that I turn a background romance into a full-blown subplot. I’ve been fighting it and I don’t know why: I like the character, I like the concept.

Why Am I Pushing Back?

  • Maybe it’s too much work.
    • My internal editor is just being lazy on how to integrate this new plot point.
  • Maybe it’s just not the story I’m trying to tell.
    • I could be struggling with integrating it because it’s the wrong story and the romance features should stay in the background or get cut entirely.
  • Maybe it isn’t the story I’m trying to tell – but maybe it’s a BETTER ONE!

Asking For Help

I couldn’t figure it out, so I asked for help. I asked my YA support group and my alpha reader if they had any ideas.

That’s when J. in my support group reminded me, “a subplot that can be cut or ignored without affecting the main plot shouldn’t be there.”

It hit me like a brick in the face.

My editor was trying to make the elements I’d presented her with WORK-she wasn’t trying to make it a different story.

Subplot Uses

I need to make sure that the romance element is doing something. It needs to forward the plot, it needs to forward my main character’s internal growth.

Ways to use a subplot:

  • Forward the external plot
    • The love interest character(s) always forwarded the external plot, but the romance itself didn’t effect much
  • Forward the main character’s emotional growth
    • She opens up, but there should be more. It should help her overcome something in her head, some hang up of hers.
  • Provide motivation for the secondary character

Now What?

  • Follow the suggestion
    • Do I bring the character back?
  • Fix the weak point, but do it a different way
    • Do I make my main character angst over the love interest more?
  • Ignore the suggestion
    • That doesn’t matter, because I’ve made the scene work for me in other ways
  • Something else?

I’ll be over here staring at my revision draft.

20170309_111749.jpg


What revision suggestions have you struggled with? Did you end up going with the suggestions?

Some Days, You’re a Super Star…

Progress Post

Some days you’re a super star, and some days, you just show up to work. I’ve been revising, but took a long weekend off and am slowly getting back into things.

25807 / 88257 words. 29% done!

Where I’m At

I’m up to page 93* and I’m about to start chapter 8 tonight. I’d hoped to be starting this week at Chapter 9, but I made other things priorities and that’s the trade-off for not putting my writing first.

Excuses

I visited friends, ate out a lot, and got called up as emergency back-up for a sick voice actor to help record another episode of anansistorytime.com (not necessarily in that order).

Plans

Try to get minimally 4 chapters edited a week, hopefully 5-6, so that the last 2 weeks of March can be spent proof-reading a printed out copy.

* Out of 324 pages.