Sunday, August 19, 2012

Making it better

By: Joelle Charbonneau

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again – I love revising.  The process of taking something and making it better.  Writing the story is enjoyable.  Since I don’t write with an outline, I learn where the story is going along side the characters.  Writing the first draft is like riding a roller coaster.  Sometimes the story turns out the way I think it’s headed.  More often than not it takes a turn for the unexpected and I am both entertained and panicked as I hope it all makes sense in the end.  There are lots of loop-da-loops and sharp dives along the way.  Some make me scream with joy others…um…not so much. 

But once the book is finished I get to rewrite and tweak and polish.  To me, that is where the real fun begins.  I examine my characters’ story arcs, the plot points and the word choices I’ve made.  Then, when I’m done, I say a small prayer that the book isn’t crap and send it off to my agent.  Once the manuscript hits her inbox, I try to pretend I’m not nervous as I wait to hear her verdict.

Some authors don’t want their agent to weigh in on the quality of a book that has already sold.  They are more than happy to ship it directly to their editor and wait to see what the editor thinks.  Not me.  I want my agent’s feedback.  In fact, I can’t imagine doing without it.  Each person that reads the book with a fresh, knowledgeable eye is instrumental in making the story stronger.  And I want to make the story as strong as possible.  Will it be the best book I’ll ever write?  Who knows.  But if I really consider each point my early readers and editors make and look at the story in new ways, I ‘m doing my utmost to make it the best book that I can write at that moment.

Last week, I received editorial notes from my agent on Independent Study.  My gut instinct is always to dive right into the comments and begin to make changes.  However, I have learned that, for  me, it is best to read all the comments in the manuscript, reread the editorial letter, then let the commentary bop around in my head for a few days.  Giving the comments time to simmer means giving me a chance to really think about the way the story pieces need to fit together to strengthen the elements that are working and eliminate those that are not. 

Today, I embark on that process.  I always think it will take me a few days.  Sometimes I’m right.  Other times it takes far longer.  I always have to tell myself that the process can’t be rushed.  I mean, the book took more than a couple days to write.  Cutting corners now is just silly.

When I’m done layering in more depth and tweaking some scenes, I’ll reread the whole book then send it off to my fabulous agent again in the hope I’ve done the right work.  Trust me, she’ll let me know if I went astray.  If so, we’ll do another round of revisions until we agree it is as strong as we can make it.  When that moment comes, we’ll ship it off to my editor who will pick and prod and poke at the story some more all the while pushing me to make it better.

I can’t wait.

Am I crazy?  Maybe.  But I wouldn’t change this part of the process for anything. 

Revisions, here I come!

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