Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Retreat Lesson 2: Revising Your Manuscript

You've written your manuscript and revised, revised, revised, until at last a publishing house has offered you a contract. Congratulations! Now what? Umm ... more revisions. (Sorry.)

For the second lesson at last weekend's Novel Revision Retreat, Julie Romeis discussed "Jumping Hurdles: Navigating the Ins and Outs of the Revision Process."

Julie shared the work she and author Lisa Klein did on the recently published Ophelia. The revision process for that book involved eight versions over a span of two years, as editor and author worked together to bring the manuscript to its full potential. Not all of those versions entailed substantive revisions ... several were copyedits and proofs ... but still!

Among the main points Julie shared:

1. Keep your eyes on the finish line. Don't allow yourself to get overwhelmed by focusing on each individual hurdle in the revision process. You and your "coach" - whether that be an editor, agent or critique partner - should share a vision for the story. The point of revising it is to get closer and closer to that vision.

2. Every step counts. This is the flip side of point #1. In hurdles, the difference between winning and losing can be 1/100 of a second. In writing and revising, the difference between a good sentence and a great sentence can be a single word. Your editor will work with you on big-picture items such as story arcs, mood, emotion, clarity. He or she also will work with you on "little things" such as word choice. Be prepared to work hard to find just the right word or phrase, especially for the key scenes in your story, as your editor will want those scenes to soar.

3. In the end, it's your race to run. What do you do if your coach suggests a change that doesn't feel quite right? First, recognize that the reason he or she suggested a change is most likely because something in the original version didn't work. Try to define the underlying problem and see whether you can come up with a solution that works for you. This is your story, and you need to be happy with the end result.

Do you have any revision stories or tips to share?

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