by Alayne Kay Christian
Before I start, I’d like to thank Meg for inviting me to be a guest blogger for ReviMo 2016. When Meg asked me to be a guest, we bounced around the idea of me teaching a mini-lesson from my course Art of Arc: How to Analyze Your Picture Book Manuscript. Because the course is structured in a building-block style, I found it difficult to choose a portion to share. However, at the end of this post, I will share my list of questions for critiques, edits, and polishing (for picture books built around a traditional arc).
After much brainstorming, I’ve decided to let the wisdom of other authors guide me in writing this post. I hope their words will guide you (or at least entertain you) while revising your work. Comments in blue are yours truly.
What do Michael Crichton, James Michener, and David Sedaris have in common with Ernest Hemingway? They all revise, revise, revise!
“Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.” [Seven? Only seven?]
– Michael Crichton
“I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.”
– James Michener
“I tend to write things seven times before I show them to my editor. I write them seven times, then I take them on tour, read them like a dozen times on tour, then go back to the room and rewrite, read and rewrite, and I try to learn as much as I can on my own before I show it to my editor at The New Yorker. I would never show him a first draft, because then he’s really going to be sick of it by the twelfth draft.”
– David Sedaris
David Sedaris’s method of writing is an important one to consider. Be patient. Don’t be in a hurry to submit. Some agents and editors have been quoted with variations of “I can only read a story for the first time once.” Make sure you are sending your absolute best. How do you do that? Revise.
Don’t be in a hurry with a request for revisions from an agent either. On her blog, Heather Alexander gives some reasons why you should let revisions simmer for a while before resending a manuscript.
“When asked about rewriting, Ernest Hemingway said that he rewrote the ending to A Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times before he was satisfied. . . .” [Thirty-nine – now that’s more my style!]
– Susan M. Tiberghein,
One Year to a Writing Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art and Craft.
Are you sick of revising? How many times have you felt like giving up? Do you have what Sophy Burnham said it takes to succeed? (below)
“There are so many different kinds of writing and so many ways to work that the only rule is this: do what works. Almost everything has been tried and found to succeed for somebody. The methods, even the ideas of successful writers contradict each other in a most heartening way, and the only element I find common to all successful writers is persistence – an overwhelming determination to succeed.” – Sophy Burnaham
As Sophy Burnham said, the methods and ideas of successful writers contradict each other. Following are some methods and ideas on revision from a few authors – sorry about the language.
“Revision means throwing out the boring crap and making what’s left sound natural.”
– Laurie Halse Anderson
“I’ve found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that somebody else wrote it and then to rip the living shit out of it.”
– Don Roff
“My approach to revision hasn’t changed much over the years. I know there are writers who do it as they go along, but my method of attack has always been to plunge in and go as fast as I can, keeping the edge of my narrative blade as sharp as possible by constant use, and trying to outrun the novelist’s most insidious enemy, which is doubt.”
– Stephen King
Wow, even Stephen King struggles with doubt. Outrunning and outsmarting doubt is one the best ways to overcome thoughts of giving up. How can you combat doubt as you move into this new year? I challenge you to come up with a strategy.
Following are some fun quotes related to how revising puts the magic in writing.
“Writing a first draft is like groping one’s way into a dark room, or overhearing a faint conversation, or telling a joke whose punchline you’ve forgotten. As someone said, one writes mainly to rewrite, for rewriting and revising are how one’s mind comes to inhabit the material fully.” – Ted Solotaroff
“Fiction does not spring into the world fully grown, like Athena. It is the process of writing and rewriting that makes a fiction original, if not profound.”
– John Garnder
“Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.” – Patricia Fuller
“Editing is the very edge of your knowledge forced to grow – a test you can’t cheat on.”
– S. Kelley Harrell
“Editing is like pruning the rose bush you thought was so perfect and beautiful until
it overgrew the garden.” – Larry Enright
Following are a couple common questions from writers: How do I know when my story is ready? How do I know when it’s time to stop revising? There are many answers to these questions. I think the following quote from Terry Brooks is one good answer.
“If you are ever completely satisfied with something you have written, you are setting your sights too low. But if you can’t let go of your material even after you have done the best that you can with it, you are setting your sights too high.”
– Terry Brooks
The following quote from Jo Walton speaks for me regarding writing and revision. “There aren’t any rules, except to do what works for you.” I say learn all that you can possibly learn, and then take all that information and create your own recipe for getting the story written and polished. In the end, your best work will come from a natural process that flows from you authentically.
“I do everything they tell you not to. I go back and fix things as I go, otherwise I can’t move forward. I don’t write every day, I write in binges. I don’t write drafts, what I write, fixed as I go, is pretty much what gets published. Everybody writes differently, and there are a lot of people who want everybody to write in the same way, people who have a lot invested in telling people to write a whole crappy first draft and then revise it, and so on. That absolutely doesn’t work for me. I tell people there are things they can try, and things that might help, but there aren’t any rules, except to do what works for you, what gets the story on the page.”
– Jo Walton
REMEMBER . . .
“Rewriting is the crucible where books are born.”
– Cathryn Louis
As you revise and polish, you learn. And as you learn, something wonderful can happen. . . .
“There were days when I wondered if I was a glutton for punishment or simply delusional. [Sound familiar?] However, my writing must have been improving because one day I found myself with three agents interested in my latest manuscript.”
– Lois Winston
Persistence and an overwhelming determination to succeed are common to all successful writers. In the writing community, we repeatedly see proof of writers who grew through the determination and desire to learn and keep going. We see proof of their growth in announcements of signing with an agent or receiving their first book contract and in some cases a fifth, sixth, twentieth! Keep writing, keep revising, and keep dreaming. Like the characters in our stories, we may have struggles or obstacles to overcome. Yet we will learn, grow, and change as we seek our desire and battle our obstacles. But also like our characters, we will find a way to achieve what we set out to do.
As promised, here is the checklist for critiques, edits, and polishing.
The quotes in this post are from the book WRITING QUOTES: 1000+ Inspirational and Motivational Quotes about Writing by Great and Successful Writers. Researched and Compiled by Saeed Sikiru.
Alayne is offering one lucky winner the choice of free enrollment in her picture book writing course ART OF ARC: How to Analyze Your Picture Book Manuscript (deepen your understanding of picture books written with a classic arc) or a detailed analysis of a picture book manuscript that is built around an arc – prose only, preferably fiction, 850 words or less. To learn more about the course and Alayne’s detailed critiques visit her blog.
A rafflecopter will be posted at the end of ReviMo, where you can enter to win!
Thank you thank you Alayne!
More about Alayne
More about the Art of Arc course
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