REVISION DECISION – WHEN DO YOU REVISE YOUR MANUSCRIPT
It’s been a brief blog vacation, but I’m back. I have a feeling you managed to survive.
So let’s jump right into it.
You have a manuscript. You’ve tinkered and retouched and reread until you’re beginning to hate every word you wrote, and then you submit it to an editor, an agent, or a reader. Depending on which of these you’re dealing with, you will wait a few weeks, a few months, or you’re still waiting. Finally, you get some comments back. Now comes the big question: What do you do? Should you revise, stick to your guns and resubmit to someone else, meet them halfway?
As is often (okay – always) the case, I haven’t figured out a hard-and-fast rule that works. I’ve given in to editors and then regretted it (although usually not); and I have accepted changes en masse, and it worked out perfectly.
My rule of thumb, and I’m hoping some of you may find this useful or interesting, is to go back to basics and ask myself the fundamental question: Does the comment or proposed revision work for my character(s)? If the comment, suggestion, or revision enhances the compelling nature of a character than I automatically accept it. In my mind, if an objective reader finds that a particular word, sentence, paragraph, or even an entire chapter, interferes with the expression of a character, then who am I to tell them that they are wrong. I’m too close to it and objectivity is an impossibility.
Here’s a case study. I wrote a book loosely based on the concept of 1001 Arabian Nights. The story takes place during a canoe trip with a bunch of boys who are not getting along. They decide to stay up all night, and to do so they begin to tell each other stories. Each story is a wild adventure, and by daylight the boys are bonded and good friends.
The first editor who read it told me she didn’t think the concept worked.
That I ignored. The concept has been working for centuries. I assumed she hasn’t read 1001 Arabian Nights.
Then I shared it with my agent, and he thought it was confusing to have six different boy characters all competing for the readers’ attention. Since a great deal of the book is taken up by the stories themselves, the multiple characters were hard for younger readers to follow. That is a useful bit of feedback because it goes to the heart of the matter — Is this book compelling? It won’t be if the readers do not connect with the main characters.
The fix, while somewhat painful, was necessary in my mind. I changed the dynamic to include three girls and three boys. Rather than six individuals I have two distinct groups interacting — much easier to keep clear. I also focus on character development for the first eight chapters. That gives me lots of time to build the conflict to a fever pitch. Now the kids are staying up all night to prove themselves to the other group. The boys won’t back down, and neither will the girls. Now I have conflict, clearly defined character groups, gender issues — it’s almost too much!
I’m currently launching into the rewrite as we speak, and in doing so have discovered opportunities to enhance my characters even more. I realize I have a limited number of pages for my real characters to speak to the reader, so I can’t waste time. The result, I hope, will be a more captivating book, with far more compelling characters.
Now all I have to do is rewrite it, edit it, submit it, get an offer, negotiate terms, and hope I sell more than one copy to myself.
Do you have your own revision decision? Share it and we can discuss.
Until then — Let’s write soon.