Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It's not your baby any more

For reasons far too boring to get into, I've been thinking a lot about revision lately. Specifically: WHY IT'S SO HARD AND FRUSTRATING AND MAKES ME WANT TO MASH MY HEAD INTO THE WALL UNTIL I REACH A COMATOSE STATE AND NEVER HAVE TO THINK AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (And yes...I *might* be a little overdramatic)

And I've come up with a lot of answers, most of which center around the fact that with revision you have to turn that crud-pile of a first draft into something...well...GOOD! Which is...yanno...HARD! (Sorry, talking about revision makes me feel the need for ALL CAPS a lot) :)

But there's another reason too. See, because no writer is--or should be--an island, revision is that point where you take your draft--your BABY--and hand it over to CPs or your Agent or Editor. And unfortunately, from that point's not just your baby anymore.

The thing hand your draft--your BABY--over to your CPs/Agent/Editor knowing that they're going to return it to you with feedback. And you fully expect that the feedback will require a lot of work and make you feel like you are a complete idiot for missing all of these very important things. You're prepared for that. You can handle it. You expect it.

But there's also the other kind of feedback. The I-really-hate-that-this-is-a-valid-point kind of feedback. The kind that makes you cut your favorite jokes or scenes, redefine or remove characters you love, or rewrite entire sections of your book--not because they're bad, but because they need to be different. It's the kind of feedback that makes you wish you could be immature and pout and moan and throw a tantrum and demand that it be YOUR way. (Or is that just me?) But you can't.

Because when you're don't always get to have things your way. Your way might slow the pacing, or be too similar to something else already published, or be too confusing for people who do not have your brain, or not be nearly as funny or cute or clever or sweet as YOU think it is. So even though it's your draft--your BABY--you have to change it. It's not just YOURS anymore. You're writing it to be PUBLISHED. Which means you have to think about what the majority of readers want from the story. And that might not always be the same thing you want.

So how do you deal with that? first, you probably pout and moan and whine (again, maybe that's just me). But suck it up and make the changes. You always stay true to yourself and your vision of course. But it's also about sacrifice--for the good of the book and your career. It makes revision hard and stressful and very, VERY frustrating. But you get a better book out of it in the long run. Hopefully one good enough to sell.

(And hey, that's why most authors have deleted scenes on their websites, right?).

But what about you guys? Have you ever cut or changed something you might not have wanted to, because you knew it was the right thing for your book? Please--commiserate with me in the comments!


  1. Yes, I've cut a lot. I have been stubborn some times and resisted cutting out those chapters I like, but that later I have to admit don't need to be there for the story. I love your stages of getting to following the advice. I can relate.

  2. Firstly, hon, you always refer to CP's. Yeah, for the lame and dumb that would mean crit partner. Duh, me. Hah. I'm alright now. LOL.

    Man, cutting puffs. I hate that. I've gotten so frustrated from cutting something I really wanted in there, that I deleted that work. Crud. I usually try and keep the scene, etc...

    Recently it was a character I knew didn't really move along the plot but he added so much color to the scenes. *sigh*

  3. Yes! I have made that cut! And it was awful. Not least because it was completely the right thing to do. A lot of what I write is (I hope) funny, and having to cut my favourite jokes is the worst bit. I find myself wanting to detour the plot so I can keep in this bit, which keeps in this bit, which means later, I can still use the joke! Only, bad plan.

    My chosen response is to allow myself 24 hours and as much ice cream as necessary, then get on with it. Silver linine and all that.

  4. Yes! In fact, right now I'm rewriting my ending to make it more teen friendly. It makes me a little sad, but I see how it's necessary.

  5. Yonks ago I won a professional critique from an editor who was very very helpful with my ms but his main sticking point was that my theme was too unmarketable and to change it to something more marketable. So I did and the result was a complete mess - because my heart wasn't in it!!

    I've since returned to my original wip - with his many suggestions still in place but I've not changed my theme and I have to admit that with his critique and me sticking to my gut-feeling about my wip, it's taking shape nicely - for me!! It may not read brilliantly to the outside world but for my own peace of mind. I'm glad I listened to his invaluable suggestions but I'm also glad I didn't completely remove what for me was the essence of my story.

    It's a very hard - painfully hard - balance to try and achieve. One I'm only discovering for myself!!

    I wish you luck with your writing Shannon Messenger!! I just know you'll find that happy place where you are true to your story but have encompassed what is good for your book and career! Take care

  6. I've cut so much it's crazy and now I must cut more. I'm at the point of banging my head against the wall. I know it's for the best, but it can be heart breaking as well as frustrating.

  7. Revision is always a double-edged thing for me; I'm sometimes unhappy with having someone point out flaws, but at the same time I do enjoy having some direction.

    Drafting can be so SEAT-OF-THE-PANTS *wink* that it's hard to know where to start when revising. Someone you trust giving you some guidance can do a lot to quell the nerves, I think. Then again, I can see how too much "guidance" could make your head spin, or make you imagine painful ways to harm a character who happens to have the same name/appearance/job as the person giving you the suggestions ... it's cathartic!

  8. You're so right. When you make changes based on others advice it's really not the creation of just one person anymore ...

  9. I recently received a 10 page crit from an agent. The news wasn't great. It was a decent start BUT .... (That was only from the email. I didn't read the comments in the ms right away)

    I put the book aside, not planning to go back to it until I'd finished the first draft of my new wip. But two days later, I went running and all kinds of ideas hit me. I needed to highlight the first chapter and hit Delete. Chapter two (with some major rewrites) was really my first chapter. And reading the agent's comments in the ms only confirmed that. ;)

  10. Oh yea...everytime my writerly BFF CP points out something that infuriates me and I go back to see se is RIGHT, yea...I cut things!

  11. I had to totally rewrite my first chapter so it would feel more connected to the rest of the story.
    It worked.

  12. I've not written a book, but I've had article and essays that I have changed and cut reluctantly for the purpose of getting them published.
    And usually when I take a step back and separate myself from something that is so intensely MINE, I can see the editors' points making sense.

    It's all a tough process.

  13. Oh yes. Man, that is hard!! But so worth it in the end. I'm struggling with that now. Well, not struggling, really. Just saying goodbye. But I know it's going to make this thing so much better, and get me that much closer to seeing this thing in print.

    You can do it, Shannon!! I'm rooting for you!

    You sure that's not your baby? Looks a little like you.... :P

  14. Dear Shannon,
    Did you know that I comment on your blog more than I do any other? Now you do. Because you keep writing stuff I relate to/can be informed by/need to hear. And yes, you just did it again.
    So thank you, Shannon Whitney Messenger.

  15. Oh man, those major cuts/changes can be SO hard. Almost like losing a part of yourself, if they're big enough. But oftentimes, they do end up making the story better. Darn it! ;)

  16. Yep! I think any writer who is serious about craft and "making it" has to deal with cutting up the baby. Ya know, hack an arm here, a leg there, and shove on a prosthetic or two!! Ha ha ha. It's okay, I think I'm funny. :-)

  17. Yes, I've been there. The dreaded critique and revision process. Afterward, the story really was a lot better, which I totally hate to admit, but it was all worth it, so okay, I'll admit it was best to change my beloved story.

    That is one cute baby, by the way. Heck, I'd claim it if I were you!!!

  18. First, what a cute stock baby you have! ;)
    Second, babies are way too cute and cuddly to hack up, so maybe we should stop calling our first drafts our babies and say--oh, i don't know--call them spawn?

    I totally understand your pain. Since I recently learned a book has come out with many similarities to my WIP, I have suffered greatly deciding what major tweaks I'm going to have to make to deliver a creation that in no way resembles a clone.

  19. Oh, man, now I'm bemoaning every comment I made in your MS! But I feel this. I think I got very lucky in my book that I was able to keep almost everything I wrote to begin with. At least after being agented. Before that, I was a hot mess. And yes, once we pass stuff to others, it has the danger of becoming something we didn't envision. Sometimes it makes it better, and sometimes not. I think it's that line we have to be aware of, and not cross it.

  20. I feel your pain. My last ms rambled on forever and then ended on what I thought was an awesome note of optimism. Then I reread it and realized none of the issues were

    Rewrote it and took it from 81,000 to just under 69,000...and let the characters wrap up a few things.

    And maybe it helps to think of it as still your baby but now with the help of others, it's a better baby! Like, now it's potty trained and sleeps through the

  21. Yep, this is tough. It takes me a couple of days to pick myself up off the floor after a particularly tough critique.

  22. Oh, I SO hear you.

    My editor came back to me with a suggestion I KNEW would make my book a lot stronger, but one of those things which would have a major snowball effect throughout the whole plot. It took a lot of work and hair-pulling... but now I'm glad I did it!

  23. Oh yes, I know EXACTLY what you mean. It's hard to change your baby, but in the end that baby will be so much better. Still, it's not easy to make those changes. Believe me, I've done my share of griping about it;)

  24. Yep, I'm officially spamming you with comments but so many good posts!

    And this has never happened to me. Every word I write gets the tick of approval....Fine, I'm totally lying. *sigh* Our babies...they grow up so fast!

  25. Dude, that baby is so cute, I'd believe you if you said it was yours. ;)

    As for slashing scenes, I do it with a glad heart, knowing that what I'm doing is for the best. Sometimes I don't feel that way at first, but once I come around, I don't look back. (I do keep old versions backed up. I'm not crazy! ;D )

  26. Oh yeah, I've been there. I've scrapped some things that I really liked, they just didn't mesh with what I had for plot. It was sad, but for the best.

  27. Lord, I am right there with you my dear. It is not pretty over here - not pretty at all :)

  28. First WIP was extremely sexually graphic.

    The truth is that I can't tell that story without the sex. It revolves around the sex.

    But it's not a romance, so it took a long time of being stubborn before I finally gave in. It was even a CP or something that first said it was too graphic. All along I knew within myself.

  29. Yep. I've had to kill many of my darlings and it sucks every time. I feel your pain.

  30. First I have to aw over that picture. The baby is just so cute!

    Ahem. Sorry 'bout that. I just love babies.

    Anyhow, I know exactly what you are going through because that's where I am with my fantasy YA. I thought it was all finished and ready for me to query when I get some damn0it0all excellent advice that basically means rewriting. a lot. Pretty much half of the story. I know it will make the story a thousand times stronger but seriously, if it isn't ready for querying once I'm done with this round of revising, I don't think it'll ever be.

  31. Oh, yeah, for sure. This is the benefit of being unagented and without a publishing contract for me - I can get that feedback that makes me go, "NO! I WON'T get rid of that scene! I LOVE that scene! That scene is PIVOTAL to the whole STORY!" and sit on it for as long as it takes (a week? a month? 6 months?) to get to that stage where I'm out on a walk with my kids and admiring the birds and I find myself having that "eureka" moment when I go, "Oh, YEAH! That's how I'll get rid of that scene and make the story work!"

    And yes, it has taken me 6 months to get to that point. Ugh.

  32. Is there a stronger word than cut? Hack? That. I do that. When necessary (and it usually is). It's always slightly terrifying, but the new baby always ends up a little bit prettier than the last :)

  33. I have yet to cut anything that I would want to put on a website later - maybe I will someday, but most of that rightly belongs in delete-key-heaven. :)


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