Monday, June 18, 2012

The Art of Revision

When I get notes from my editor on a manuscript, a concatenation of emotions tumbles through me. Because I just got the manuscript for Othermoon back with revision notes today, I'm still dealing with all the feelings it brings up. It's a great trip to go on, don't get me wrong. But it's quite a roller coaster.

1. I see an email from my editor in my Inbox. A jolt rocks through me. It contains a jumble of feelings:  excitement, fear, knowledge and pressure that work and a deadline lie ahead.

2. I hesitate. What if she hated it? What if she has notes I disagree with? Even more emotionally charged - what if she loved it? Oh no. That's too much to hope for.

I know the phrase "gird your loins" is antique, referring to donning one's armor to prepare for battle, but at this moment, it's the best way to describe what I do, emotionally. I gird like a fiend.

Breathe. It's not you, it's your book. Those are two different things.

3. I click to open the email and scan the opening sentence, getting the gist, but not the particulars. This way, if it's bad, I can look away or click on another tab in my browser and breathe some more. I also do this when a boy I likes answers an email, and did it many times when querying agents. There's no real way to buffer yourself against disappointment or rejection , but I'm trying my damnedest.

But in the case of the revisions for Othermoon, the gist is good! It's excellent!

Oh thank you Thoth and Seshat! (The ancient Egyptian god of writing and goddess of writers/builders, respectively.)

Now I can read the email more closely. It contains her happy thoughts, and a couple of ideas she has overall for changes to make. It's a sequel, so I need to explain a few things a bit more, just to remind people of things they may have forgotten from the first book.

And she wants another scene! She loves a particular character and thinks we need a bit more about him in a way that adds to the themes in the book.

This makes me very happy. I worry about word count when I turn in a book. In YA generally you want to keep books shorter than books for adults. But if you're editor wants MORE, this means she likes what she read and doesn't mind it being longer.

At least I tell myself that's what it means. There's no one else here telling me different, so I'm sticking with that.

4. After reading the email, I log out of that email account and busy myself with other things.

No, I didn't download the Word file with the manuscript containing her specific notes. My cursor went nowhere near it. Even though she liked the book and I agree completely with her bigger notes, I can't yet bear to look at her specific notes.

The logical part of me knows it'll be fine. That I can handle whatever she throws my way. I've done this before, and my editor is fantastic. It'll be great.

But the bigger part of me is all: "Run away! Run away!"

And so I do. I go do other things. It's like Scarlett O'Hara saying, "I'll think about that tomorrow."

Well, I'm not crying the way she is here. I'm more, "La la la, what revision notes?"

5. I go back to my email and write a reply, thanking my editor, agreeing with what she said in the email, promising to get the revision back by deadline, etc.

6. I sign out of email. No, I still haven't looked at the actual revision notes. It's only been a couple of hours. That's not "another day." Although I know I can't afford to wait another day. I need to start working on them now.

7. I email my critique partner, Elisa, that the revisions are in, and all looks good. Sure, it's something she'd like to know. But really it's me stalling.

8. Several hours later I finally open up the Word file. I save it so that it's, well, safe. But I don't look at it.  I'm good at this procrastination thing. You could learn a lot from me. Only you shouldn't.

9. Finally I scroll down to see the first note. She's deleted an unnecessary comma. Okay. Further on, she's made a suggestion that I change the order of two words in a sentence.

This isn't so bad. In fact, it's nothing. I can do this. I scroll faster.

Oops, what's that? A comment?  I glance away. Breathe. Then I read the comment.

It's a compliment!

Okay, I could get used to this. I keep scrolling. Lots more corrections of grammar and spelling, wording suggestions. And by now, there are comments that aren't compliments - they are indications that I need to do some rewriting.

But they all make sense to me, and I feel steady as I page down. I can handle this now. All that pussyfooting around has allowed me to collect myself enough to be professional and positive about the notes.

10. I get excited about the revision. The changes are going to make the book better, and I want it to be as good as possible. Woo hoo!


₢ris said...

That's life, always learning and improving.
Your comment touched me and imagined myself in his place. It would be madness!
In the end, everything will be alright.

Cris Sanlim
Bibliotecando com a Cris

Nina Berry said...

Thanks, Cris!