Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Revisiting Revisions (and cooking pasta)

I know I've blogged about revisions before, and so have Molly and Sinead, but for some reason I keep going back to this topic.

Okay, it's no big mystery. I know the reason. It's because I'm not only revising right now--like Molly, I'm revising something I've already revised at least once before. But unlike Molly, I'm not feeling so confident about how it's going right now.

I think the last time I blogged about revising I claimed it was my favorite part of the writing process. (Well, maybe second to those days where my fingers just fly and things happen on the page I didn't see coming, but those days are few and far between and hard to predict.) I think I've always liked revising because I felt like it was easier to control.

But I want to take back my "I love revising" claim. It seems, like so many other things about writing, that whether or not revising goes well, depends on the book.

The manuscript I'm revising right now, on the surface, would seem to be a much simpler story than my previous work which had multiple timelines and lots to things to juggle. But I'm actually finding this one harder. It's a story where it's all about the subtle changes in the character's attitude. Little by little they have to change and I'm only in one character's POV, but what's going on with the other characters is very important and has to show through, and I keep moving things around and then realizing the move's messed up what a character was thinking or doing somewhere else. (And to complicate matters, the two main characters' minds are in each other's bodies for 99% of the book... Yes. That's right. I'm insane.)

Right now, I can't even seem to keep order of the book's events straight, and having problems like that isn't like me. Before these past few weeks, I'd have said that sort of thing was my strength, not my weakness...

Of course, I know there are lots of tools I could be using (outlining, storyboarding, index cards, etc.) to help with this process, but I feel like I'm in a rush so I've been reluctant to step back to do the work I know I should be doing...

And that's actually what I had been planning to blog about before the huge preceding digression.

Why are we in such a freakin' hurry all the time?

I've spent so much time beating myself up about the fact I haven't had anything new out on submission with editors for a year, and I obviously I can't sell if I'm not getting new work to my agent, and obviously if I want a career in popular fiction I need to be able to produce at least a book a year, but sometimes I feel like, especially at this hunting-your-first-contract stage, that it pays to take your time, to make sure you're doing your best work, to make sure you're telling stories that will stand out with high quality writing that stands out, too...

I've heard several people give the "spaghetti" advice line to unpublished writers. That is, to write as much as you can in as many genres as you can, get lots out there and see what sticks. And I certainly know people who've done very well with that strategy, but for me, I think my work, like pasta, needs to be fully cooked before it'll have a chance of sticking to the wall.

All that said, I'm still determined to get this manuscript completely revised before I go to RWA Nationals in two weeks. Previously, I'd been hoping for much sooner, so that my agent could read it before I see here there... but I gave up on that pipe dream a few weeks ago...

Do you feel pressure to write quickly? Do you think it affects the quality of what you do?

Gotta go. I'm in a hurry. Back to work...

9 comments:

Christine d'Abo said...

I tend to write my first draft very quickly, then I have to go back through and see where all the holes are. I have a love/hate relationship with editing. I love the end results...hate having to do it. I always second guess myself. I think that's why its important to have someone else read it through and have them identify parts of the story that aren't working. The rest comes as you edit those bits.

I feel the pressure to write fast, but that's something I've done to myself.

Margaret Moore said...

I think that there's more pressure than ever on writers to produce and produce quickly and for that, I blame the internet. We are so much more aware of what everyone else is doing and how they work, we start to question our own methods and even why we write. That's only natural, but it doesn't help the process.

You've given yourself a tough row to hoe, and that's going to take more time than a less complicated story. Just the way it is. Accept, try to relax (but not too much) and you'll get it done. Better to send something as polished as you can make it than half-baked (talk about yer mixed metaphor! I should probably revise that, but you know what I mean.)

Molly O'Keefe said...

Those are interesting points Margaret -- I think you're probably right - there's some peace of mind that comes from staying off the loops. I'm doing as much as I possibly can - I don't need to hear how someone else manages to rewrite, raise kids, lose weight and speak at three conferences a year.

I agree the problems and pleasures are different with every mms. I always think I have something nailed in one mms only to blow it again two books later.

Margaret Moore said...

Oh, Molly, I'm soooo reminded of when my son was a baby and my friend, whose son was 4 months older, would write to me and tell me what all she was doing. See, her son would nap for three hours every afternoon. My son? Half an hour was a big nap for him.

So she'd be telling me how she was baking her own bread and sewing curtains, etc. etc. and I'd be thinking, "I had a shower today....." :-)

Leah Braemel said...

Oh, thank goodness you posted this, Maureen! I'm feeling exactly the same way about my WIP. I think the pressure of the upcoming conference is definitely adding to my worries. I really like my WIP, and in editing I discovered that it needed a single scene added - a short one - and yet it's taking me forever to get it straight in my mind. At least it's not just me having this problem, you've made me feel much more normal today.

Sinead M said...

I'm in the part of the process where revisions are hard.. worse still, because apparently my brain doesn't work when I'm pregnant so three weeks worth of work has to be completely redone.

I also want to learn to write faster.. and better.

Inkpot said...

This post really hit a chord with me. I'm working on finishing a book at the moment and then I want to go back and revise the first book in the trilogy and get it ready to be sent out to agents by September. Sometimes I am thinking so much about missing my deadlines and all the things I haven't done that I lose sight of the things I have done. I'm always beating myself up for not having written twenty wonderful books, short stories, novellas already this year in a variety of different genres. If I manage to do what I am doing well I should be happy! Anyway, it is nice to read that other writers feel as insecure and rushed as I do. :) Sorry for the rather rambling incoherant post, but I am tired and it is late (the excuse of the internet, I know)

Maureen McGowan said...

Yes, Inkpot. I think we all need to work at the pace that's right for us. More important to continually improve and create quality work than to produce tons of volume.

Sure, some people can do both. I am so jealous of those people, but have to realize that right now, that's not me.

Maureen McGowan said...

Yes, Inkpot. I think we all need to work at the pace that's right for us. More important to continually improve and create quality work than to produce tons of volume.

Sure, some people can do both. I am so jealous of those people, but have to realize that right now, that's not me.

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