Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Revision

Last week was Revision Week at DearEditor.com. Different authors each day discussed their revision process. If you missed any of the posts, click here. I finished the first draft of my wip a couple of weeks ago, so the timing was perfect for me.

I was excited to finish my draft, but also disappointed. It seemed like there was more I didn't like about the draft than what I did like. I almost had to wonder if I should scrap the whole idea and move on to something else. But that's where Revision Week came at just the right time for me. I was amazed to learn how many drafts some of these established authors go through with a new project.

Robin LaFevers said she'll typically go through seven to ten drafts before she shows a project to her editor. Nathan Bransford said a novel is done for him after the third or fourth major overhaul. And here's what really got me: Cynthia Leitich Smith said she used to write a "discovery draft" to get to know her story first. Then she would read it and throw it away. Throw it away?! That's when I realized it's okay if my first draft isn't all I'd hoped it would be - it's just a jumping-off point. But now I know so much more about my characters and my story than when I started that draft. I know which parts dragged the story down and which parts really work. It's possible (probable) the first draft might actually end up in the trash, but that's okay, because it's served its purpose. I've already started working on the overhaul, and it seems like it's all coming together so much more easily this time. I'm sure this won't be the last draft either, but it will be a major step towards it.

Did you catch the Revision Week posts? How many drafts do you typically go through before the final draft?

46 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've usually spent so much time on the outline that the first draft is easily workable. I go through it dozens of times before passing it off to my critique partners.

Old Kitty said...

Oh you sound so amazingly rejuvenated with your overhaul re-write! Well done you!!! Yay!! Good luck!!

Oh I'm on my nth draft for my ms - but this one - this one is really coming together too - but I have a looooooooooooong way to go - only at ch.10! :-( LOL!

Take care
x

Lynda R Young said...

I don't really keep track of the number of drafts because I'm always chopping and changing and going all over it. I also start with a detailed outline which also gets a massive work over before I even start writing.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I'm glad to hear you're re-enthused on your first draft! I need this reminder right now. I had to put aside my WIP to work on another project, and now that it's time to get back to the WIP, I look at the draft and see only problems. I, too, was considering casting it aside for a Shiny New Toy.

But I've put 55k into this project, and it's only the first draft. I usually don't share a MS with my agent until draft 3 or 4. Who knows how this rough thing might be transformed by then? I shouldn't give up.

Brian said...

WOW, throw it away and start over...that is some revision!

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I guess I was the opposite. I've always wondered how people could feel a draft was finished after only a couple of revisions. My last ms I didn't even show to my agent until it was in its 8th draft. My first draft is always a discovery draft, though I don't throw it away. I merely rewrite probably 80% of it. But it gives me something to work with and I understand the characters better and where I want to take the plot.

Anonymous said...

That's so weird because I posted about revision last week too--wish I'd seen those posts then!
I usually have 3-4 drafts before I call it done. Once, I had 5 but it got shelved.

Jai Joshi said...

First drafts are called first drafts for a reason. They're not supposed to be perfect. I generally go through about 3 or 4 drafts before I feel like I'm done but certain sections go through more re-writes than the rest. My first 3 chapters usually go through about 10 drafts or more before I'm happy.

Jai

cleemckenzie said...

Drafts are my way of pealing away layer after layer until I discover what I really think is right in terms of characters, setting, pacing and the way the language sounds. Fortunately, I love the editing process or I'd go nuts.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Throw it out?! Ack!! I'd be diving for the trashcan after it. LOL

I really don't know how many revisions it takes. I write a few chapters at a time and then give them to my crit partners as I go. As soon as I get one back I revise. Then before I write some more I may go back and re-read what I've written and revise again. It's a long process but by the time I write "the end" there isn't much editing that needs to be done. Maybe just some emotional layering.
I guess everybody has their own method. :)

Laura Marcella said...

I was snowboarding in Vermont last week and unplugged so I missed a lot! These revision posts sound terrific. I'm glad you mentioned them so I can check 'em out!

SA Larsenッ said...

OMGosh! I love the coin-phrase Discovery Draft! I do that, although I didn't know it had a name. Go figure. :D

Susan Oloier said...

I missed Revision Week. But revisions are the most fun for me now. I used to dread them. Since I do significant outlining and index carding and editing as I go, I usually only need one major overhaul and a lot of read throughs before I feel a book is ready. However, I spend years on my manuscripts before I find them to be ready in any capacity.

DEZMOND said...

sounds like a nightmarish process, Suze :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I did those posts.

Some days I feel like I've done the throw away draft. One of my old stories will be competely re-outlined and rewritten. But that's because I've figured out how to make it better, and it was better to start from scratch. :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

After several rounds of revisions and edits, I print my manuscript out with all corrections and start the process again. Some sections I go over close to a hundred times.

DL Hammons said...

I usually go through one major revision, and then several minor tweaks. I'm an outliner though.

Lara Schiffbauer said...

And your post came just in time for me! I've been so slow with editing/revisions, and I'm so thankful to hear that it's okay to take your time and make changes. I guess I expected a little much from my first draft! Thanks for the link, too!

Leslie Rose said...

I look at drafts the same way I do watercoloring. Each is a layer that needs some drying time, and then you go in and add nuance and detail at each pass. I do at least 4-5 drafts before I let other eyes in.

Romance Reader said...

Well done with your revisions! But waht a process..

Riya.

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

As a reader rather than a writer as such I admire the trials you authors go through with your books.

Stephen Tremp said...

I read Stephen King only does three or four revisions and that's it. But he's been doing this for a long time. Me, I do about fifteen. Hopefully I'll get it under ten next time around. Good luck with your WIP.

Carol Riggs said...

Gah!--throwing a whole draft away! I don't think I could do that. :) I'd use pieces, at least. I think I do about 3-4 revisions. Then on my one agented novel, she had me do 3 more!

Clara said...

Glorious post Susan. I also fall in love with my story during revisions rather than through the first draft.
I usually go through two revisions before submitting to critique partners, then around five more. But that's because English isn't my native language and some aberrations do go through from time to time : )

Lauren said...

Great post! I can't believe some authors just THROW AWAY an idea! Heh. I think my book went through five revisions prior to querying it. I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I'm glad your revising is going well!

Jackee said...

Oooh! I'll have to check it out. You know how badly I need revision motivation. :o)

I know Richard Peck also does the throw-the-first-draft-away thing too. With all his beautiful writing and awards, maybe there is something to that. :o)

Have a lovely day!

Margo Berendsen said...

I'm so glad you mentioned Revision Week and some of these stories, revisions can be so discouraging so we need these reminders of perseverance! Off to check it out.

Medeia Sharif said...

I'll check out the link.

Revising used to discourage me--ugh, all that work. Now it's my favorite part of writing. I enjoy making huge changes to my story to see it taking shape.

It's interesting to hear that other writers throw away their first drafts. I usually type over mine.

Lara Schiffbauer said...

Hi! I thought of you, when it came time to pass on the Lucky 7 meme - so if you want to play come on over and pick up the picture and the rules!

Carolyn V said...

Cynthia throws it away???? That would make me cry! I didn't catch revision week. That is so cool. I finished my revisions a month ago and am doing edits. I think the revision really made a huge difference in my work.

Marcia said...

I know -- aren't the numbers of revisions almost unbelievable sometimes? we do need to remember that the draft is only a first attempt, and if it stinks to high heaven, there's still hope for the story.

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

Throw it away! After all the hard work, goodness how could she.

Talli Roland said...

I don't know why, but even when I have an outline in place, the first draft always seems absolute rubbish. I teat it apart in the second (and usually end up rewriting most of it), and then do about three or four more drafts until I'm happy.

Heather Murphy said...

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Sharon K. Mayhew said...

That was a great series of posts, wasn't it? I figure you keep editing until it is published, so I have no idea how many revisions a book goes through.

Good luck with your ms...

It was great seeing you on Saturday!

Jo Schaffer said...

I have to cringe very hard a the "throw it away" method. GULP.
I did a few revisions on my own and then my agent had me do a light revision again. And I know the publisher will have even more to say about it. Not over until it is in print!

Susan R. Mills said...

I tend to write a discovery draft too. I end up scrapping the whole thing (well, I save it, but I rewrite entirely, only referring to the original draft as needed).

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

I do a discovery draft, too, but I never thought to call it that. The second draft IS so much smoother, even if it's completely different. I know because I'm in the middle of one right now! :)

Kelly Polark said...

I revise a lot. Even when I'm writing. I reread many chapters before I write the next one to get into the groove. Make little changes as I go! Then more after critiques. Then more after rereading. Neverending! :)

Kim Franklin said...

Ah, first drafts. They never quite turn out to be exactly what you expect them to. I typically have to go through TONS of drafts before I finish. Of course, I haven't finished a first draft in awhile. :(

Happy Spring Break!!

Theresa Milstein said...

Have a great spring break, Susan!

I used to go through more drafts. But I still go through at least a handful. I stop periodically as I write to fix things, which seems to make a cleaner final. But I'm not published yet, so what do I know?

The Happy Whisk said...

Happy Spring Break :-)

LynNerdKelley said...

I hardly got online last week and I missed the Revision Week posts. I had hoped to read them but it didn't happen. That's insane that Cynthia Leitich Smith throws her first draft away! Yikes! I could never bring myself to do that, but I consider my first drafts skeleton drafts and then revise and add all the other good stuff. I revise many times also. It's hard when to decide the ms is finished sometimes. Seems like I could continue the revising for years because there's always something that can be improved. But then I'd never get on to the next book!

Deniz Bevan said...

Eek! I never throw anything away... I scribble down the whole thing, then go back and fill in missing scenes, then go back and try to remove as many square brackets/research holes as I can, then read through for flow and word choice, then delete a bunch of stuff, then read through again and tidy it all up, then send it to betas... it takes a while :-)

MTeacress said...

If I threw mine away, I think I would feel I've cut off a limb. How about I just put it in the attic?

TerryLynnJohnson said...

I really enjoyed revision week too. Some great tips and surprises. For me, I also like to get to know the story in my first draft. I can't wait to get to the end to see what's going to happen. After that, I can fix things. But I wouldn't throw it away! yikes!