A Friendly Revision Letter + UPDATE

Friends don’t let friends write sucky stories.

So, while I’m biding my time before I receive my agent revision letter for TATTF*, my pal Maven Darcy sends me a CP revision letter for the story I wrote immediately before that. I had already subjected Maven Lacey to it months earlier and received revision info from her as well.

Unsurprisingly, they both had many of the same things to say regarding areas of room for improvement. (Which probably means they’re, uh, right. *g)

Despite my well-documented allergy to mass rewrites, I am actually excited to get back to this project for several reasons.

One might be because it’s a Regency-set historical, which, although not the genre I first fell in love with reading (as a child, I inhaled a mad mix of Roald Dahl, Madeline l’Engle, Douglas Adams, Piers Anthony, and Stephen King) Regency romances were the genre that I immediately chose when, as an adult, I decided to try my hand at that writing thing again.

Another big reason why I’m excited to go back to Touched is because I’ve long felt it was my abandoned-stepchild novel.

My first two stories weren’t perfect but didn’t totally suck (they garnered requested fulls but no offers of publication, they finalled in contests but never won, etc) and had been relegated to that magical mulch pile under my bed.

Touched was my third story.

The plot bloomed to life one afternoon last August while noshing on free cookie samples at a Panera with CP Kel and CP ‘Manda. I wrote the first word on August 29 and word 85,221 (er, the last word) on September 24. Meaning, the entire thing spewed forth in less than a month.

And then I never looked at it again. Like, ever.

I left immediately after that for a month in Europe, and when I came home from that I had to play catch-up with client work and whatnot, and then it was Thanksgiving and suddenly December, which brought about Miss Snark’s final crapometer and the snowball of karma that produced (I’ll blog about that next week by request *g) and then the next thing I knew, it was August again, and Touched never had a chance.

Well, now it does!

I plan to force myself (yes, force myself!) to be optimistic and cheerful about the revision process, and here’s why:

* Attitude is everything! And it’s something you have complete control over. (Ask Maven Lacey about her iPod trick sometime)

* I’m a much better writer today, in August 2007, than I was then, in August 2006.

I think the reason I held fast to my anti-rewriting stance was that I knew those first stories I wrote were practice novels. I could rewrite them, sure, but they’d never be as good as something I wrote new.

Touched, while imperfect, doesn’t have fatal flaws to the point where the story is irredeemable. And I’m finally confident enough in my abilities as a writer to actually believe rewriting it wouldn’t be a waste of my time, that I can revise it and make it good.

And that’s so exciting for me!

True, chances are excellent it’ll take me exponentially longer to rewrite than it did to write in the first place. But that’s okay. The story is what matters.

*
UPDATE!
I just received my agent’s revision letter for Trevor & the Tooth Fairy! Yay! Hurray! Squee!
*runs off to start revising*

YOUR TURN: Have you ever permanently shelved a book, as I did with my first two stories? If not, why not? If so, how do you decide which books are better off dormant and which books deserve the time it takes to revise them into perfection? What makes you excited to do a mass rewrite (if ever)?

22 comments

  1. B.E. Sanderson - Reply

    I haven’t permanently shelved any of the books I’ve completed. Even the couple I started years ago but never finished aren’t permanently dead yet. I guess I just can’t let them go. I know they’re all good stories, so I will continue to fight for them. To quote from Galaxy Quest: “Never give up. Never surrender.”

    I’m in the middle of not so much a mass rewrite but a deep edit right now. The only time I get excited about it is when I think how much better the story is getting. (And as such, how much more publishable.) I’ve never done a massive rewrite beyond the first draft stage. Usually once I lay down the first draft, the key points of the story are set in stone for me.

    Good luck on the rewrite, Erica. I know you can do it, and I know it’ll be awesome when it’s done. =oD

  2. Kelly Krysten - Reply

    Not yet, but I think I might. Then again, though, I’ll prolly pull it out again later. I have OCD like that.lol.

  3. ERiCA - Reply

    B.E. says:
    I’ve never done a massive rewrite beyond the first draft stage. Usually once I lay down the first draft, the key points of the story are set in stone for me.

    This will be my first time for a mass rewrite, too. I actually think the key points will be staying the same. I’ll be changing a couple characters’ personalities (which inherently requires revision to all scenes) and the hero’s backstory and I’ll also need to tweak the villain’s motivation. So, the general plot will remain, but yet pretty much everything will need to be revised.

    Kelly: LOL re: OCD. I get you. After all, here I am resurrecting an oldie, too! =)

  4. Mary - Reply

    I’ve given up on short stories before – recognized the base story wasn’t original enough and I was too attached to my words for a major rewrite. I know my current WIP (first novel) will need a lot of revising, mainly fleshing out certain scenes and adding earlier conflict, but hope it won’t come to shelving stage.

  5. Jacqueline Barbour - Reply

    I’ve given up on far more stories than I’ve finished, so at this stage in my life, I’m trying not to give up on anything I’ve actually managed to write all the way to The End. Even if it means a significant rewrite. And since I’m as allergic to revision as you (or maybe more!), it’s a matter of pride at this stage for me to prove to myself I CAN see a project all the way through to a submittable end result.

  6. Darcy Burke - Reply

    Easy peasy, someone always says. That’s what this revision will be like, E! E knows I started a magical mulch pile (LOVE that) under my bed in June. I hope it’ a mulch pile of one, but you never know. Like E, I wrote that book thinking it would be the practice book that went nowhere and after trying to make it NOT the practice book for WAY too long to recount, I wised up. RIP.

  7. ERiCA - Reply

    Mary: Some people actually sell their first novels! I hope this happens to you. =)

    Jacq: LOL, I can totally see where you’re coming from on that.

    Darc: Who would say something like “easy peasy”?! *shifty eyes* I hope so, anyway! We shall see…

  8. Bill Clark - Reply

    Miss Snark’s final crapometer and the snowball of karma that produced (I’ll blog about that next week by request *g)

    Yay! *Bill’s not sure whose request it is, but he sure thinks the story is part of the soon-to-be astounding success of the incomparable TATTF*

    And B. E. : Galaxy Quest was merely paraphrasing Winston Churchill’s famous speech at Harrow in 1941, which can be found at the following link (and once again, I regret not having Miss E’s facility at inserting hot links – sigh):

    http://www.winstonchurchill.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=423

    The most famous line:

    …this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty…

    (If it’s any consolation, Erica, I think Churchill had a great deal of trouble passing high school, and would have been thrilled to get your “B” – but he sure knew how to use the English language!) (As do you, of course!) 🙂

  9. ERiCA - Reply

    Disclaimer:

    Lest readers get the wrong idea, I would like to point out that I had no difficulty passing high school, and graduated both that and university with honors.

    Bill would be referring to an online quiz, which you can take here.

  10. Vicki - Reply

    I have several stories that live with the dust bunnies. 🙂

    Then there is this one though. I wrote it years ago but I loved the story. I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find it. It’s one that I would love to rework.

  11. Karen Lingefelt - Reply

    Call me stubborn, call me a martyr, call me a glutton for punishment (hell, you may as well call me a writer), but I have no unfinished mss save for the POSIP. When I start writing something, I’m in it to the bitter end.

    I have lots of manuscripts under the bed, by no means permanently. Any one of them can be called back to active duty at any time.

    My CP, in fact, is currently critiquing the last one I wrote in the 20th century. I put it under the bed circa 2002, then pulled it out earlier this year, thinking I might give it another chance.

    More recently I’ve actually considered going back to my much earlier stuff (think 1980’s). Those works are still my one and original true love; I loved writing them more than I’ve ever loved writing anything else.

    So why are they under the bed? Because they’re so ugly, only the author could love them.

    Must think “swan”–and that goes for everything we write.

  12. ERiCA - Reply

    So why are they under the bed? Because they’re so ugly, only the author could love them.

    Karen, you kill me!!!

  13. lacey kaye - Reply

    Like someone else said, I like rewriting and revising because I like to see what comes out of the chaff. I spent this last week in a machine shop. They start with a gross, dirty sheet of metal and punch out a part. Then they drill it or weld it or bend it or whatever–there’s your story bones. Then they make it fit nice and tight to the next part, buff it up, make it shiny, and the next thing you know–wah lah! Usable equipment. That’s my book 😉

  14. Bill Clark - Reply

    Tell!! Tell! What does the letter say??

    *Bill seconds Erica’s disclaimer – he momentarily forgot that not everyone reads every blog thread of every blog. Erica is clearly in a high honors class by herself – although I’m sure she does pretty well in group classes, too!*

    Great comments about the mulch piles and dust bunnies and under-the-bed fermentation techniques! I had no idea… 🙂

  15. Diana Peterfreund - Reply

    Nope. I chuck stories all the time. Story ideas, half-finished manuscripts, full manuscripts.

    It’s so freeing. There are some manuscripts that aren’t going to teach you anything more for the fixing of them, some that are so broken that you’re waasting your time trying to fix them, when what you should be doing is applying your new skills to new books that aren’t brokena nd that you know how to keep from becoming so.

    Read Julie Leto’s “To All the Manuscripts I’ve Loved Before.” It’s brilliant.

    I think of it like a car. There is such a thing as “totalled.”

  16. Shesawriter - Reply

    I’m “putting a book down” right now. My agent has basically said the book of my heart is … um … dead. Now she wants us to focus on the other two books she’s about to shop.

    It’s very hard to move on, especially when my heart is still with those characters, but such is life.

    Tanya

  17. ERiCA - Reply

    Lacey: You know how much I lurve analogies!! *swoon*

    Vicki: Thanks! Missed you at the TARA meeting. 🙁

    Bill: Letter consisted of a few pages of bulleted suggestions, all of which were light edits and not mass rewrites, exactly as you predicted. Yay, you! Yay, me! Yay, TATTF! =)

    Diana: That is a great article! I read it every six months or so. Julie’s wisdom is priceless. (P.S. Lurve car analogy! *happy sigh*)

    Kelly & Isabel: Thanks!

    Tanya: Sounds super hard. I’m trying to temper being super-excited for TATTF’s chances with the practicality of knowing nothing in this industry (or, really, in this world) is guaranteed. So hard–I feel for you!

  18. Dr. Bill Emener - Reply

    Hi Erica,
    Excellent Post — made me think!
    Small world — I reside in St. Pete Beach and work in north Tampa.
    Hang in there and “Write for yourself!” Sometimes a rewrite turns out to be a “not yours” end result.
    Ciao,
    Bill

  19. Ericka Scott - Reply

    Never permanently shelve a book. I have one I’ve been writing for almost two years… The Jade Skull. Bleh. It’s hideous and heinous. But, last Friday on my trip to the library (one last one to celebrate the end of summer break) I had a sudden brainstorm of how to lift the main plot and one character out of the story. It’ll trim about 7000 words off it, but will still be a saleable length (well over 20K)and I’m really excited about it. Too bad I can’t start working hard on it until I return from vacation on the 18th. Sigh.

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Erica Ridley
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