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29 August 2012 @ 03:18 pm
Writing Wednesday: Being Willing to Revise  
A lot of professional writers talk about revision and how important it is. But I think most beginners don't really understand what we mean when we say "revision." They imagine that "revision" is about making your words prettier, making sure there are no typos, that there aren't inconsistensies, and that you have the right ratio of description to dialog and action.

This is not "revision." This is "copyediting." I don't mean to knock copyeditors because they have saved my bacon on numerous occasions. But when you are revising, you are not looking at the little stuff. You are looking at the big stuff. You have to be willing to change the big stuff.

Here are some big things I have changed in the course of my professional career:
1. Made a mirror human (Mira, Mirror).
2. Given the viewpoint character magic (Prince George in The Princess and the Hound).
3. Changed from an alternating day and night/Ladyhawke relationship to both characters being human most of the time (The Princess and the Bear)
4. Told the story about a year before the original first chapter began, and essentially deleted everything else (The Monster In Me).
5. Cut out the entire first 100 pages because they don't happen before the main characters become teens (The Rose Throne).
6. Cut out several minor characters I loved (The Rose Throne).
7. Cut out some of my favorite scenes (all of my books).

The main problem I see with writers who are nearly there and writers who are already there is the people who are willing to make the big changes.

I know, every once in a while, there is an author who seems to sell a book in first draft form. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but I am often a little skeptical about this. Maybe they aren't lying to make a good story, but I suspect authors who do this have actually spent YEARS writing and rewriting other novels before their subconcious figures out the way to tell a story right the first time. And I daresay that these same authors do not have that good luck the second time around, and that they have to figure out how to do extensive revisions later on.

Here is my message to beginning writers:

You cannot count on your first draft being good enough to sell. It doesn't mean that you are a bad writer or doomed to failure if you try out different ways to tell a story. It also doesn't mean that if you try out different ways, this will be the story that breaks you into publishing. Some stories won't work and no one knows why. Other stories work immediately and we also don't know why. You just keep telling stories the best way you know how. You tell them one way and then another way and then another way until you get it right or you give up and work on something else. There is no shame in needing to throw everything out and start over again.