Revisions Are Necessary and Not Something to Fear

Revisions Are Necessary and Not Something to Fear

This post was inspired by an article that will remain anonymous, as I disagree with many of the points presented within. I may have possibly misinterpreted the article, but what I ultimately took away from it is that re-writing (revisions) is an antiquated concept. It’s not. 

As a writer, I LOVE revisions. It means being able to step back from the initial draft I wrote and thinking of a way to make it much better, which, more often than not, includes re-writing and re-structuring much of the book. And that is exactly what revising means–it is the next step for many writers after they have written the first draft. Does this mean scrapping the first draft entirely? No. Re-writing, AKA revisions, doesn’t mean that at all, and that is a mistaken belief among newbie writers–I’ve made this mistake. What it does mean is looking at everything in your first draft–plot, characters, sub-plots, story arcs, ect.–and finding ways to make those things much, much better. Sometimes this means deleting scenes, deleting chapters, axing characters entirely, re-writing chapters, adding in more chapters, and so on and so forth.

It doesn’t mean having to re-write your entire novel, but what it does mean is that you NEED to look at your book and find ways to make it much better than its current condition. This usually involves stepping away from the draft for a little bit–a few weeks maybe–and then coming back.

People seem to dread revisions because they believe they’re scrapping their first draft entirely, so they see no point in revising. Why do all of that hard work of writing a first draft if I’m just going to have to re-write it anyway? That was my thinking when I was twelve. Large portions of a draft might need to be re-written. Query Quagmire has a fantastic explanation on the process of revision.


It is a RARE writer who does not need to essentially re-write his or her draft. Even Stephen King, as experienced as he is, still revises. He doesn’t write a first draft, then jump immediately to edits while foregoing the process of revisions entirely. Maybe his rough drafts aren’t as rough as a newbie writer’s rough drafts, but he also realizes that a first draft is just that, a first draft.

When you write that first draft, you’re excited by it, so you go into it with your heart on your sleeve and write every idea that comes to mind, put in every character that you want in your story, every plot thread and scene, and so on and so forth. Then you get done with the draft. But wait? Don’t touch it immediately. Either send it off to a beta reader if you can’t afford to wait, or just distance yourself from the manuscript for a few weeks and maybe start on something else before getting back to it. Either way, revisions are unavoidable, so don’t get this mistaken impression that revisions are something you can avoid. Re-writing isn’t some myth that your English teachers or college professors throw in your face because they want you to do more work.

Not at all.

Your English teachers had to go through the process of revisions for their essays in their English classes. Your professors are still having to go through revisions on their essays that are published by elite academic journals. They do not skip the process of revisions, because revisions always make a book better–or essays, in the case of teachers and professors. It is a RARE writer who can may not have to revise, but don’t get this mistaken impression that revisions are something frivolous, that once you’re as big as John Green or whatever, that you’re too experienced to not have to go through that process. That isn’t so, not when those experienced authors don’t skip revisions, either. Did you know John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars actually started out as a story involving cancer patients who would meet in a cave outside of their hospital? And now look at TFiOS today. His critical acclaims ride on the fact that he took the time to write the best dang book possible, and even if he avoided revisions, his agent won’t let him. His editor won’t either. Perhaps each manuscript will come back with less and less edits, but that doesn’t mean HE avoided revisions. He just knows how to do them on his own (or will eventually), but he still does them. 

Some authors do revise as they go. I BELIEVE Ernest Hemingway was one of those writers (correct me if I’m wrong, please). However, that is still revising and still re-writing. It may be on a first draft that he is doing this, but he is still revising and still re-writing. He knows that he can’t avoid this. I, on the other hand, word vomit with my first drafts. I don’t care about how nice my first draft looks. Some first drafts are crummier than others, but a first draft for me exists to get all of my ideas down. Then I distance myself from those ideas in order to think about making those ideas much, much stronger.

Take my contemporary fantasy, for example. I’ve been away from it for a few months because I have been doing edits on The Stars Are Infinite, sequel to When Stars Die. I AM going to have to do revisions and re-writes for this novel.  I want to introduce the antagonist later. There is a character I want to ax. There is a concept I need to re-do. There is a romance I want to strengthen–and much, much more. Am I getting rid of the story itself? No, but I have much better ideas to make the story stronger, and I know this because I do consider myself an experienced writer, even though I only have one work published. I am also an editor, and whenever I edit a book from a client who has never published before, I generally have to tell them to re-structure their book, even if this is something they already have done. I AM AN OUTSIDE PERSPECTIVE. 

Today’s publishing industry isn’t the publishing industry of just even ten years ago. Writers want to make more money, so they try to write their books as fast as possible. Either they forego sleeping to get revisions done, or they forego the process of revisions entirely and skip this step. Oftentimes it shows for prolific writers, where readers are able to compare their newest books to their oldest books (my personal assistant used Dean Koontz as an example. He tried to do this, but his newest works were weaker than his oldest works). Sometimes it doesn’t show, but more often that not, this is a case where readers have nothing to compare your work to. However, if you’re a new writer who skipped revisions and your readers love your book, I have no right to downplay what the rating of your book may be. However, as a new writer, your readers don’t think they can get any better from you. Readers aren’t editors. Readers are sharp, don’t get me wrong, but they point out only flaws in the book. They don’t suggest ways to fix those flaws like editors can do.

I do have one question though: If you essentially took the time to revise your novel, don’t you think you would be delivering a much stronger book to your readers so that way you’re not shortchanging them, inadvertently making them believe this is the best product you’ve got to offer? 

I consider myself a very ethical author when it comes to my readers. I want to make sure they receive the best product possible, so I will revise every book I ever write. The first draft is writing for yourself. Revisions and edits thereafter are for them–not you. You’re not the consumer of your book. They are, so make the strongest book possible, and in order to do that, yeah, you’re probably going to have to re-write some things.

If you don’t feel like it needs to be re-written, then don’t do it, but don’t assume this AFTER you’ve written your first draft. EVERYONE needs a second pair of eyes, even if it’s just one person. Libba Bray certainly did, and she’s published about six books, I believe. She is also not a one-book-per-year author.

So please don’t go around thinking re-writing is some myth teachers pound in your brains because they want to give you more work. Many know what they are talking about because they’ve been through that process themselves.

On Writing Despair (The Dancing Writer Edition)

On Writing Despair (The Dancing Writer Edition)

I know I said I’d blog every other day, but since tomorrow’s post is planned and this one was too good to pass up, I just have to do it today. I already finished revising chapter thirteen of Stolentime during the time I’m usually doing my blogging, so it doesn’t hurt for me to blog today. I suppose I should revise another chapter, but I’m a one a day girl. My brain has to be fresh and ripe for the plucking to do any type of revising. Once it starts to slow down, those revisions are not going to be as superb as they would be with a fresh brain. I should also probably be editing for my client, but I’ll get to it after this.

Libba Bray, my favorite author of all time, wrote an intense blog post. Currently she is struggling with book #2 in her Diviners series–struggling really bad, like so bad it would make a newbie writer wonder why they’re not struggling as bad. But here’s her post: On Writing Despair (Juicebox Mix). At least skim her post. It’s a delicious little thing.

The gist of her post is that she writes by the seat of her pants, and because she does, it makes revising more difficult for her. But she also can’t outline, so she feels like she’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. She has tried outlining. She mentions she has ten different outlines for book #2, but she can’t complete any of them.

I think all of us can relate to Bray. All of us. Each and every one of us who has ever sat down and began writing some form of a story. When Stars Rise, without an outline, was a terror to write. Georgia McBride edited each chapter as I wrote, and I ran into a roadblock with chapter three. I had to re-write it FIVE times to eventually find the heart of it. But even then, things grew more difficult. I finished half the book, sent it off to McBride, and it came back with hardly any editing. You would think this would be a good thing, but the less ink, the more work. My story had completely de-railed, so there was nothing she could say about it because a de-railed story is a de-railed story. It lost its heart. It veered away, and I was left doubting myself and wondering if McBride was suddenly doubting me because she loved my project so much in the beginning. But I had a conversation with her, and she mentioned that I needed to outline.

So I did.

I had Megan Curd edit the half that I changed, and she had no content comments–just line edits.

But, unfortunately, my gut was still going all over the place. There was too much information packed into the first half of the book. While Curd may have been able to keep track of all that, that didn’t mean other readers could, so I knew I had to shelve When Stars Rise. I had to bring out When Stars Die to make all the information in the first half work.

I took McBride’s edits from the sequel and applied them to the first book. I outlined. I wrote. I didn’t struggle. I re-wrote. I outlined against. I re-did scenes. I added scenes. And thus was born When Stars Die.

But I have to outline. My mind can’t be cluttered. While my surroundings can be a cluttered mess with shoes nailed to the wall, I cannot have shoes nailed to the wall of my mind or else I’ll flip.

Currently the revisions for Stolentime are going smoothly. I’m having no problem deleting scenes or adding scenes or getting rid of characters or better developing them. In fact, while I have a revision outline, I’m still making changes to the outline. I’m combining some chapters, getting rid of others, adding things to scenes, deleting scenes, and coming up with more things as I progress. I love the story, but I don’t fall into that romantic trap of being IN LOVE with the story.

But everything could change by the time I get to line edits. I plan to spend a week away from Stolentime to let it bake before going back to it. Then I’ll do line edits, then I’ll have somebody read it purely for content before I tackle more line edits or proofreading. During the week I’m going to spend away from Stolentime, I am going to do revision outlines for When Stars Rise because the way it’s currently written doesn’t match up well with When Stars Die, so things are going to need to be changed yet again. The sequel may still bring me grief because sequels aren’t easy. They have to be better than the first, and that can be extremely hard to do.

Heck, right now, I’m struggling with trying to come up with new book ideas, because what am I going to do after the third book in the Stars trilogy? I don’t know, but I know in order to maintain a solid career, I’m going to have to come up with something, right?

What Is This Nonsense Called Free Time?

What Is This Nonsense Called Free Time?

tumblr_moanotkiSC1rscysmo1_500 (2)I’ll probably be blogging about ballet a lot simply because it is a regular part of my summer and it has gotten to the point where it has become quite challenging for me. Ballet has always been hard. In fact, the basics seem to become more difficult the better I get. But it is more challenging because it really requires more of the use of my mind. No longer can I depend on just flat out muscle memory to do the work for me.

But the difficulty of this week’s class was finally explained when the director mentioned he had been using the Russian method, which is supposedly the hardest method there is because they really use their arms and heads. Of course, because I had only received some Cechetti and I guess French, Russian is an entirely different language for me. But it explained why I’ve been having such difficulties this week–mostly at the barre today. Since I’m not used to Russian, of course I’m going to flail around, and because I haven’t been doing ballet for years, it’s going to be hard for me to immediately incorporate it, not like the other advanced dancers who can. So I eased up on self-criticism when it came to barre work. Even so, center was much better today. I was more coordinated and so was able to flow more with the moves. Now I’ve just got to work on getting springier jumps.  And pointe work went okay. I’ve just got to work on getting the minute details in combinations, those transition steps that help you flow from one move to the next.

tumblr_mng9ih4HBe1st45sno1_500 As for my writing life, I have four chapters of Stolentime edited so far and plan to do a fifth today. The revisions are going along fairly smoothly and I don’t really see myself stumbling across any mental blocks. I am also editing a client manuscript, so I really can’t take on any other clients right now because there are never enough hours in the day. It’s either work or ballet, and so with the time outside of those two activities, I’ve got to squeeze in writing somehow–and editing.

I also may hold off on doing part 3 of Sister Evelyn until next week simply because I want to get in at least ten chapters of Stolentime before taking a break one day to work on Sister Evelyn. And I can’t forget When Stars Die, but it’s in line edits currently.

Also, I’ll probably start editorial work for a magazine my writer’s group wants to start. This one will likely be biannual though, whereas The Corner Club Press is every 2 to 3 months.

As you can see, I have a lot going on. I shudder to think about how things are going to pick up when I start class in the fall.

The Dancing Writer’s Pointe Shoes, Volume II

The Dancing Writer’s Pointe Shoes, Volume II

My feet in my somewhat dirty pointe shoes. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but since I plan to be in my revising chambers, I decided to leave you guys with a digest of ten of my most popular posts. Also, I would love recommendations for things you guys would like me to write about. I’ll probably be doing one post a day now that I am throwing myself at revisions of Stolentime, and so I would appreciate some inspiration. Also, keep an eye out later tonight for a guest blog post.

Stupid Writing Advice

Writers Must Live to Write, Not Write to Live

Advice to Young Writers

The Importance of Follower Appreciation

What Writers Owe Readers and Vice Versa

Symptoms of Clinical Depression Are Not Romantic for Writers

Publishing a Book: A Single Interview Question

We’re All Professional Writers

The Madness of Revisions

The Madness of the Value of Books

Self-Editing Booklet

Self-Editing Booklet

Now that I have an outline and specifications smoothed out, I think it will be a lot easier to get you guys on board by basically doing what I did with the guest blog posts: put out topics, first come, first serve; then gather them all and put them in this self-editing booklet I am throwing together. Charles Yallowitz has already volunteered his input, so I’m giving you guys more concrete topics you can write about. Here they are:

1. How you outline  Seán Cooke

2. How you handle the first chapter

3. How you handle the first five chapters

4. How you handle the middle of the book

5. How you handle the ending

First come, first serve, so quickly choose and I will cross out topics as they are requested and put the person’s name/username. I am in no hurry to write this booklet, so take your time with the topic. You can e-mail me your piece at, and I will add you to the booklet!

The Madness of Revisions

The Madness of Revisions

Sister Revised
There are more revision notes on these pages than this.

During work today I decided to do some revising of Sister Evelyn because, hey, it’s work and work is often slow during the weekday mornings. I went through with my fancy sharpie and pretty much jotted down notes in the margins. I looked at my beginning and thought of how I could better write it and also if I needed to start sooner or later. However, my biggest revision for the piece involved wanting to suspend disbelief. You see, Sister Evelyn does something that needs to be able to suspend the reader’s disbelief. I had to build that from the very beginning so her actions were more believable. At the same time, I also had to edit this piece knowing it was only part one–so, basically, I had to treat it as the chapter one of a basic novelette instead of a short story. But since this is an installation piece, I’m going to edit as I go along and write each piece as I go along.

In any case, back to the topic of revisions. Revisions are my favorite part of the writing process. You have your crappy draft, which, assuming you don’t edit as your write, reeks of crappiness galore but still has hidden gems, that potential that gives we writers a reason to revise. Then you take that crappy draft, your favorite pen, and start marking that thing up. If you’re like me, you’ll mark it up, and any majors notes that need to be added, I’ll do in a notebook or on a separate piece of paper. In Sister Evelyn’s case, I needed no extra pieces of paper. Then once all that is done, you’ll get to either re-writing the whole thing, or only re-writing the parts you marked up. I often re-write the whole thing because I don’t merely like to think outside of the box: I like to break that box.

Revisions are where I really fall in love with the story.

Now we all have our own ways of revising. I heartily advise to use an outline simply because it can help you figure out the purpose of each scene, spot potential plot holes, and keep everything in order, including characters and sub-plots and so on and so forth. Revisions need to be a time of really stepping outside of that box you’ve put yourself in when drafting. Don’t merely edit what’s already there. You need to edit what isn’t there. Does your chapter one need to be a chapter two? Does this scene need to start earlier or later? Does this character even have a purpose? Is there a better way to go about telling this story? These are some really crucial questions that need to be asked upon revisions.

I know when I was younger I refused to revise because I would often ask myself, ‘What’s the purpose of drafting if I just have to re-write the whole thing anyway?’ So for a bit I never re-wrote any of my drafts. Then I got to a point where I realized the draft is like a detailed outline. Even if I have to re-write it, I already have a basic structure there. All I’m doing is improving upon it, even if the story ends up being completely different.

When Stars Die’s premise has stayed the same since its inception, but how it got to the ending has changed dramatically over the years. In my current draft, Amelia is enduring some intense trials to be professed as a nun. In previous drafts, she was first a novitiate going about her daily life, then in my last draft, she was actually being professed as a nun. I changed the whole thing because I realized it would be much more exciting for readers to read about Amelia enduring torturous trials and also because it gave her an immediate goal to strive for in the first chapter–to become a nun for her little brother. The first chapter does need to basically answer the question, “What is your MC’s goal?”

So revising is really all about breaking the box. Don’t just seek out what’s there. Seek out what isn’t there.

Oh, also, I want to start vlogging, so give me some vlogging ideas!

The Madness of the First Draft

The Madness of the First Draft

Part of Stolentime.
Part of Stolentime.

I hate the concept of the rough draft. I hate that rough drafts are, by nature, rough and prone to innate crappiness. I love writing, but I hate writing rough drafts because revision ideas are already floating through my brain by the time I’m done with a chapter. I’m able to move on, but it doesn’t take away the fact that I really want to get to the revisions because that’s when things really become fun for me.

What exactly do I do to prepare for a first draft? Well, first I get the idea and let it stew for a week, pretty much being the character and playing out various scenarios in my head. If I can’t let go of the idea, I start to outline each chapter with a rough summary. I never used to outline. I’d just go by the seat of my pants; however, outlines keep everything in order for me and make revision notes that much easier to come up with. And as I’ve said before, outlines prevent writer’s block for me.

Then I just start writing. As I’m writing Stolentime, I’ve been very surprised with what I’ve naturally come up with that isn’t in the outline. The outline is guiding me, my story is going in the direction that the outline has it going in, but I’ve invented scenes I didn’t plan out, and that has been incredibly fun and surprising for me. It makes the drafting process more bearable, but still, I really want to get to the revisions. This story has a lot of promise and doing the revision outline will really bring everything together.

So I have been drafting a chapter a day, or have been trying to. In fact, I should probably be doing two since there is still daylight left to burn when I finish with one. I’ll get that much closer to revisions. I plan to finish the draft some time next month and hopefully have it revised before school starts. Then I’ll give it to my beta reader and see what happens from there. I know I’ve only mentioned Stolentime and haven’t really spoken of what it’s about. Well, this is the post where I’ll finally do that.

I have a vanity charm necklace that I will be using on the cover. Not this one though.
I have a vanity charm necklace that I will be using on the cover. Not this one though.

Gene White is a suicidal teen with treatment-resistant depression. Believing he is untreatable, his attempts to drown himself fail when Claude, a puppeteer and doll maker, rescues him from his suicide attempt. He decides to take Gene on as an apprentice and teaches him through bizarre and terrifying adventures that there is value to all life, including Gene’s.

So this is the story that I am working on at the moment. While the draft sucks (because don’t they all?), the story is coming together rather nicely, even though there are elements of it that will need major tweaks, like obvious inconsistencies I haven’t cared to fix.

Also, don’t forget to check out the Coraline book giveaway going on! The post is here. You must leave a comment to be entered and be a follower. Simply liking the post will not put you in the raffle. This will go on until I have my 230th follower, and then I will draw a name from the comments’ section. If you want this drawing to happen soon, share, Tweet, reblog, whatever.

The Importance of Learning How to Self-Edit

The Importance of Learning How to Self-Edit

I’m not going to claim to be an expert self-editor. All I know is that I did a really good job at content editing part of my book and the synopsis, and all I had was one beta reader (I seriously took a huge leap of faith going for AEC Stellar, didn’t I?). I also want to mention that when I refer to self-editing, I am referring to being able to edit your own content so that way all you need afterward is beta readers that you do not have to go back to fifteen million times, or a freelance editor you don’t have to keep paying thousands of dollars for.

Beta readers can become time consuming, especially if you have your manuscript out to several of them at once and they all have entire tomes of flaws pointed out to you. Then you have to fix it and re-send it to them again, where they whittle their complaints down to entire notebook-fulls; then you have to send out again, then again. Granted, this process probably only applies to beginning writers, but that is why I stressed the importance of freelance editors in a previous post of mine. You want to learn from them once (or twice) so you don’t have to keep going back to them or your beta readers. But if you have to keep going back to your beta readers for the content of your story before even getting to the nitty gritty sentence structure, then you’re not learning what you should be learning and finishing that manuscript is going to become ridiculously time consuming.

Freelance editors can be ridiculously expensive. Some charge $4 a page for one service and $6 a page for another, so that’s thousands of dollars right there. There are ones who are cheaper, but you often want those ones recommended to you. Granted, they are worth it the first time and some offer to read it again for half off or free of charge, but if you haven’t learned from them and have to keep going back for every book you write, you’re wasting money. You only want to have to pay them for your first book and first book only–if your beta readers aren’t sufficient enough, that is. A good freelance editor will function as a teacher to teach you how to self-edit so that you can bring yourself to the point where you only need beta readers to wipe away excess dirt instead of them having constantly point out major flaws in your writing that will take whole re-writes to fix.

Never undermine the importance of being able to edit the major stuff yourself: plot holes that take entire re-writes to fix, being able to edit the pacing of the book yourself, character development, plot and sub-plot development, making sure something develops in every chapter, being able to know what your gut is telling you when something is wrong. These are things that you want to learn how to self-edit on your own that way when you get to beta readers you find your novel doesn’t need an entire overhaul to fix what they point out. Or so you’re not spending monstrous amounts of money on a freelance editor.

But how do you know that you’ve learned to self-edit? If your beta readers, assuming you have good ones, aren’t tearing your next manuscript apart. Or the freelance editor you decided to hire for your next book isn’t charging you so much because said editor discovered it doesn’t need as much work as your previous one. Or if your gut isn’t sending you alarm bells. For some, self-editing is a gift, and for others it is an acquired skill through experience. The point being is that you want to eventually bring yourself to the point where you are a strong self-editor not having to heavily rely on beta readers or freelance editors–as Georgia McBride taught me.