Revisions Are Hell

August 23rd, 2007

Updates to the blog are going to be sporadic in the coming days due to the fact that I am in revision mode and have to focus all of my attention on the book I am currently revising or I will lose my train of thought.

If you want to know what doing a revision is like, picture building a perfectly nice two-story house, then being told you have to completely rebuild it…with a basement that wasn’t there before.

Better yet, picture going on a cross country road trip, only to have to return to your house every two hours because you forgot something. Every day. For a month straight.

For a more comprehensive look at the revision process, see author Maureen Johnson’s brilliant recent blog post on the subject.

If you would like to know all the worst parts of publishing a novel, from best to worst, from the novelist’s perspective, here they are (special note: some novelists may not agree with me. That is fine. They are probably not my friends–added later: we will agree to disagree, even though they are wrong):

1. First draft—Some novelists hate writing the first draft of their novel, and I will admit, this can be rough—get it? Rough draft? Ha ha—but I love this part because no one sees it but you and you can do whatever you want and be creative. There is really nothing more fun than that.

2. Second-to-Infinity draft—People always ask me how many drafts I write but that is impossible to say because I write so many I don’t know. I just keep reading over what I’ve written and rewriting it until it seems right. This is fun…until the book is handed in. After that, I am ready to move on to a new book. Bye, old book! I am done with you!

3. Revision—But wait! Why is my old book being handed back to me? I thought I was done! I have already started a new book (some writers find this odd but do you know what I find odd? Not starting a new book as soon as you are done with an old book)! After my editor has read the manuscript, she usually has some suggestions (see above re: Maureen Johnson’s blog). I hate revising more than anything in the universe. More than cleaning up cat puke. I am done with this book and do NOT want to work on it anymore.

But once I see my editor’s suggestions, I see that this book is terrible and needs tons of work. So I shut myself up and work on it, resenting that I can’t be working on the beautiful first draft of the new book I’ve started. STUPID OLD BOOK. I HATE YOU!!!!!!

4. Copy edits—After I’ve handed in the revised manuscript (not because it’s done, but because it’s due and my editor has taken it away), and my editor has hopefully liked my revisions and not asked for revisions of my revisions (please God no or I will shoot myself except I don’t have a gun for obvious reasons), a copy editor goes through the manuscript to check for alleged factual errors and continuity (I’d like to point out that I thoroughly research what facts I don’t already know for my novels before I turn them in, but copy editors always manage to find the few facts I thought I knew, so didn’t bother to research, and thus got wrong–allegedly).

The horrible old manuscript which I hate now and never want to see again arrives back at my door like a gross boyfriend I thought I’d gotten rid of, and it’s literally covered with hundreds of post-it notes marking all the (alleged) errors I have made. I have to correct these (alleged) errors and back up any alleged factual mistakes I’ve made with proof that they are not mistakes, which I then hurry to do by hitting Google, hard.

Added later: I just remembered, the first time I got a copy-edited manuscript back, I was so offended by anyone second-guessing all my research (this was in the days before everyone had the Internet, and I had done all of it in the library), I ripped all the Post-It notes off and threw them away and just sent the manuscript back without addressing any of them. And no one said anything about it! That was Where Roses Grow Wild and a few reviewers mentioned the one glaring historical inaccuracy in it (see if you can tell what it is), but it still got a great review in Publishers Weekly (not so much in Romantic Times)!

5. Pass pages—Once I’ve corrected all my mistakes proven everything I wrote is completely factual by backing it all up with hard facts from three sources, none of which are Wikipedia, the manuscript goes through a first pass of printing, usually for advanced reader copies that are sent out to reviewers, booksellers, and librarians.

This print pass will be filled with typos and yet more mistakes. I have one last chance to correct these before the manuscript goes to press for the actual books.

Usually enough time has now gone by (months) that I no longer hate the manuscript. I might even have forgotten what it’s about have a warm fuzzy feeling towards it. I can usually read it without hating it (or at least, not enough to want to throw it across the room). After finding all the errors and resisting the urge to completely rewrite certain scenes (it is too late for that at this stage—they won’t let you submit whole new pages, or at least, not huge chunks of them, just rewrite a few lines here and there), I fax or Fed Ex over the corrections.

Now it is really really too late to change anything the novel is done. Next time I see it, it will be in book form. I will check to make sure the corrections went through. Usually they have. But, for instance, like with JINX, on page 27, the word “it” didn’t make it into the first printing at the bottom of the page after “she can already taste.” These kind of mistakes haunt an author. Please write the word IT on the bottom of page 27 in your copy of JINX. Thanks.

On the other hand, I am busy with my new revision, and when that’s done, I’ll be busy with my new first draft, which will be making me happy. Life goes on. Soon I will forget all the horrible trouble that this revision gave me, and will only remember the fun of that happy first draft, when it was just me, my idea, and no one else was interfering with their (sadly, usually very good) suggestions.

Moving on, I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but some people are denying that Kathy Griffin and the Woz have actually hooked up. However, I have it on certain authority that the Woz has disconnected the iCam outside his house…some say because a certain lady friend wants her privacy as she comes and goes. Could it be Kathy? Time will tell.

In the meantime, The Daily Show has confirmed that Indiana and Iraq have a lot more in common than any of us ever suspected…. (FYI, The Daily Show is kidding, and so am I. Several politicians touring Iraq, including one Indiana congressman who compared it to his home state, however, apparently were not…)

Okay, I have procrastinated enough. Back to revision land.

More later.

Much love,

Meg