I read a couple of excellent articles today on revision.  See the links below:

I thought this quote from Jane Lebak was very good: “Taking every suggested change without understanding why is a condition I call ‘thrashing.’  When you’re doing a lot of work but making no progress, that’s thrashing.  And thrashing is frustrating.”

I recently did a critique for a guy in my MG/YA critique group.  His fantasy story idea is excellent!  But, he was trying to meet a deadline and he wanted to make a quick turn around.  He was working on the first chapter or two of a book he has mostly completed.  However, he’s still trying to perfect the beginning, the hook.  A couple of us in the group had given him similar advice and he’d revised the ms and he asked me to take another look.  I did and it was better in some respects and not better in others.  He rewrote it a couple more times and it just didn’t get any better.  I felt bad because he’s a good writer and my last critique was pretty harsh.  But rushing the work hadn’t help, he ended up “telling” instead of “showing” the plot.  I’m certain if he slows down, he’ll find the balance he wants and the book will be great.

So how does this apply to Jane’s and my book?  I mentioned in an earlier post that we had some beta readers.  Two of them, a school teacher and a “tween” boy, really liked the book, which was great!  (Thank you Marilyn and Caleb!) But, they both said that in order for a particular plot point to be noticed, we needed to emphasize it more, make it stronger.  Marilyn had a suggestion to fix the problem.  However, I’ve gone through enough workshops to know that if a problem and solution are mentioned in a critique (especially if it’s mentioned in more than one), a writer needs to listen and realize there is a problem, but then also realize the suggested solution may or may not work.  In this case, after some thought, I realized there was an easy way to fix the problem. I called Jane and she agreed.  She wanted to be the one to revise so after a day or two she had it done. The resulting changes only increased the total word count by around 50 words. But what a huge difference those words made.  

So here’s my advice to you writers out there: Listen and read the critiques you get, but figure out where the problem is before you make any changes. Keep the writing yours and don’t thrash. If it isn’t working, set it aside and work on something else. You can get it right but don’t rush it.

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2 Responses to Revision

  1. Shaunda says:

    Great insight here, and so true. I was told one of my subplots needed to be brought out more. At first, I thought it would entail a major rewrite, but all it came down to was adding about a few sentences in key places to narrow down character motivation.

  2. Sound advice, Deb and Jane. Often, our critique partners can identify that something isn’t right, but then they leap ahead into a proposed solution that just misses the mark. Better to listen to all, and find your own way out of it.

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