Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Revision--Shannon Style (Part Four)

Okay, I know I TOTALLY dropped the ball on this series. In fact, I'm pretty sure I was supposed to wrap it up about 3 months ago. #Shannonfail

But hey--since I spent the greater part of the last 3 months in various forms of Revision Hell--I've actually found quite a few new tricks to share, so ALL THE SLACKING PAID OFF---HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!

So...in case you missed the earlier posts (or have just forgotten them over the last three months *coughs*), here's links to PART ONE, PART TWO, and PART THREE of my revision process. And now we're up to PART FOUR--which was *supposed* to be the last stage. But um...ha, it SO isn't.

Well...I guess it is, but I'm realizing I can't cover it all in one post. So there will definitely be a PART FIVE and maybe a PART SIX. I can ramble about revision for a long time. Especially this stage--The Agent Stage.

Now, all literary agents are different, and not all are hands on editorially. Laura happens to be VERY hands on editorially--one of the main reasons I wanted to work with her. But for some of you, this stage may not exist (though most of the things I will be covering apply whether you have an editorial agent or not. Just substitute the word "Agent" for "critique partner").

Okay, so to get to this stage I've written the draft, revising lightly as I go. I've gone through it myself, based on the "Things I need to Fix" file. I've revised again based on CP feedback. Reread the whole thing in one sitting to watch for consistency. And, finally decided: yes, it's ready to send to Laura! Which...usually means I write up the email and then spend 2 or 3 hours in the: AHHH I'M SCARED TO HIT SEND zone before I finally get brave enough to send off the bad boy.

We'll fast forward through the 2-3 weeks I then spend obsessively checking my email for feedback and whining to anything with ears (yes, that includes my cats) about how afraid I am that she'll hate it. (no need to give you THAT close of a glimpse into my neuroses).

And so we arrive at the moment a lovely email from Laura Rennert with a subject line that has my book's title and the words: "My comments" pops up in my inbox.

*cue MASSIVE stomach ache*

So...I've gotten several of these emails over the last year, and I've sort of developed a system for opening them--and it goes something like this.

*STARE at the screen*

*hubs walks by, sees pale wife. Asks, What's wrong?"*

*explain in shaky voice, "I got my Laura-notes"*

*husband hides*

*the cats flee with him*

*continue to STARE at screen*

*after many, many minutes of staring, click to open the email and immediately close eyes*

*sit there with closed eyes for...an embarrassing amount of time*

*Finally open eyes, but refuse to look at the screen*

*click "command + P" to print the email*

*immediately close the window*

*hold breath while listening to the printer print*

*count the pages as they finish*

*at 3 pages: ask husband if we have any vodka and tonic*

*at 5 pages: suggest that the hubs might want to also hide the sharp objects*

*at 7 pages: begin seriously contemplating fleeing to Mexico and starting a new life as a maraca dancer*

*at 8 pages: decide that career description needs to be amended to "tequila-drinking maraca player"*

*at 9 pages: make a mental list of Spanish phrases still remembered from high school. Feel severely disappointed when most of them are actually remembered from Speedy Gonzalez cartoons*

*At 10 pages: curl up in the fetal position and whimper*

I *think* 10 is my record--so I'll stop there. And sadly I'm only SLIGHTLY exaggerating the process. 

Is it because Laura's notes are mean? ABSOLUTELY NOT. In fact, several of the pages are always praise. But the thing about really in depth intense revision notes (whether they're from an agent, an editor, or an especially thorough crit partner) is that no matter how much praise there is or how nice the person is in their comments, there's ALWAYS that punched-in-the-gut-man-I-must-really-suck-as-a-writer-feeling that comes with them. 

No matter HOW thick your skin is (and believe me--my skin is actually REALLY thick. I couldn't have survived film school without it). No matter how prepared you are for the inevitable. It ALWAYS happens. 

And that's the reason I'm revealing all this Shannon Shame for you guys--to make sure you know: that's normal. It's NORMAL to get a little shaken up by intense notes. It happens to us all. We all handle it our own ways--some of us probably less pathetically than others *coughs*--but it still happens. And my advice to you is: surrender to it.

But only briefly.

I really do print the email without reading it and count the pages as they print. And if it's long, you can bet I curl up in a little ball and wallow in the fear and I-Sucktitude for a few minutes. Okay, fine, more than a *few* minutes. And then? 

I shake it off. 

I force myself out of the fetal position.

I grab my Red-Pen-Of-Doom and a soda, extra heavy on the caffeine.

I take that stack of pages off the printer, plop down in bed, and read them. 

And if the punched-in-the-gut-panic starts to come back, I shove it away. I already had my moment for insecurity and self doubt. Now it's time to dig in.

And I'll talk next week about how I go about doing that.

What about you guys? Any of you gotten a particularly intense batch of revision notes? (oh mans, why am I afraid of what my CPs will say about my notes if they decide to weigh in). How did you deal?