Saturday, August 05, 2006


Michelle asked: "After your editor has gone through your first draft, how much time do you spend revising? Ie, how many revisions do you make before you think that it's good enough? How does that compare to how long it took you to revise when you first started writing? Has the process become familiar enough that you trust your voice on the first draft so that you don't feel you need to make as many revisions?"

I get two months, maybe three, to do the final revisions on a book that has 211,000 words. Revisions will include about a 30,000 word cut at least. Some chapters I do upwards of 15 versions, others maybe I'll only do one or two (this is first and final draft revisions combined). I don't know what the number is on the chapter I just finished but I suspect it's one of the 15+ versions. Those are also the kind where I do the two steps forward, one step back type of progress (See Tortoise Day) trying to get it all to come out right. Yesterday I kept realizing something was wrong, fixed it, then realized why the fix wouldn't work either, fixed that, realized why the new thing wasn't working...

Also, I don't get to do as many revisions as I need before I think it's good enough. I usually have to stop before then because the time runs out. That's why I quote to myself that little statement from the Tom Clancy book about good enough is good enough, while perfect is just a pain and often not worth the trouble...

As for the process having become familiar enough that I trust my voice in the first draft and don't have to make so many revisions? Well, yes and no. Writing the first draft is a bunch of really bad writing. It turns out often not to be as bad as it seems, but the actual experience is one of writing pure dreck and I haven't learned to trust that yet. I do seem to have a pretty good sense of what needs to go into a story and what doesn't, so I've been able to bypass a lot of the really big revision changes because of that. The editors mostly recommend that I tighten and tweak and clarify, but not anything really big.

I think that and the fact that I have to write to a deadline are what most contribute to reducing the number of revisions I make now. I've heard this from other published writers as well -- we never get to work with a manuscript until everything is the way we want it. The deadline always comes before that can happen.

What I am learning is to relax about it all and trust the Lord that if I'm taking what seems to be way too long on chapters 2 & 3 right now, that's only my viewpoint and He has it all in hand. If I stop with the worrying and the fretting, things go much more smoothly.

Happy Saturday