Monday, October 17, 2011

The Revision Diaries (5)

sometime late last night, i tweeted something that looked a little like this:

I fixed it I fixed it IFIXEDIT!!!

except it wasn't bold or in massive type, because - dang it - twitter doesn't allow us to express ourselves through font!
but big and bold is how i felt after getting past a major hurdle in my line edits.

and really, "line edits" is a bit deceptive here.
often, at the line edit stage, and editor will have a few additional suggestions for revision. one such suggestion, for me, required a lot of pacing around the house and muttering to myself. i avoided the scene for a couple days - if you can call obsessing about it, emailing about it and jotting down notes on it avoiding. what i mean is, i didn't touch the scene in my manuscript. i worked on everything else - the actual line edits, the moments that needed rewording and other minor fixes that were easier to tackle. but i was afraid to mess with this one scene for fear of screwing it up.

over the weekend, i finally ran out of other edits, and i knew i had to face my fear. today, i want to share with you how i faced it and what i learned from it.

face the fear:
- my paralysis came mostly from the fear that the manuscript is pretty well polished, and this edit would require me to tear apart some of those polished pages. to help curb that fear, i took the chapter that would be mostly changed and copied it into a new word document. this way, i could mess it up all i wanted, and the original chapter would remain untouched in my ms. - a small, obvious, solution probably... but it really helped me relax.
- in fact, i liked working in this new document so much, i made THREE of them. and i started to write 3 different scenes - each with a different approach to the "FIX." one scene fell apart so fast and furious, i deleted the whole document. it wasn't even worth archiving under "experiments." the other two scenes worked a little better, and i treated them both like rough drafts - i gave myself freedom to make mistakes ranging from typos to total character revisions.
- then i did what i would do with any rough draft. i sent the scenes to one of my crit partners. with her notes, i was able to see which scene was working. i rewrote that scene, revised it again, then took the now-polished chapter and plugged it back into the manuscript.

lesson #1 - the domino effect:
- as polished as that chapter was, i had created changes that required me to now go through the rest of my clean ms and start mucking things up again - the one thing i wanted to avoid!
but now that i knew i had "fixed it," the other changes weren't so scary. i went backward from the scene to plant some clues of the scene to come, and i went forward in the manuscript to create a few moments that would be altered by the new scene.
- the lesson for me was - no matter how much i tried to isolate the issue, to make it this one small fix in this one small corner of the story - the fact is, any important change will have a domino effect throughout your story, even if the change is small and at the almost-polished stage of your revisions. if the change doesn't ripple through the entire manuscript, it probably wasn't that important to begin with.

lesson #2 - don't be afraid to TRY:
- i agreed with my editor that we needed this "fix," but i wasn't sure if her suggestion for fixing it was the right way. i got it all stuck in my head that i could fix it another way - a way that i had already tried and that wasn't working but that i was sure would have a different result if i kept doing it. hello, definition of insanity!
- the scene i wrote first was my own solution. i wasn't happy with it, but i couldn't figure out how to fix it. so i told myself, just TRY to do what your editor suggested.
well. yeah. my editor - she's a pretty smart cookie.
i liked the second scene so much better. i knew this before i even sent the scenes to my crit partner, but i wanted an outside opinion. ...and that opinion was a clear smack down on scene one and hearts for scene 2. lesson learned: even if an idea doesn't sound like the right solution, just try it out. you may surprise yourself.

so i tweeted to the world that IFIXEDIT! and now i can start my final pass through the manuscript, making sure everything is still polished. of course, it's always possible my editor will say:

Yo. You SO did NOT fix it.

(well, no, that's not actually possible, because my editor is much more eloquent than that - but you get the idea.)
if that happens, you'll know, because i'll be back here with another round of the revision diaries.

but for now:
Line Edits. Conquered.

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