The View from Revision Lane

Opened magic book with magic light

I know when I read about a newer author’s book deal or being published I enjoy reading their blog posts about the process. It’s a great caveat the internet has given aspiring “anythings”.  Aspiring comedian’s, writers, songwriters, business owners.  Somewhere online we can read of a successful “anything” tell their story of how they did what we are in the midst of doing – or hope to do.  For me, it’s been reading how other writer’s went about the craft and business of getting a good book accompli.

For some successful debut authors it seems the process was so quick and immediate – they wrote for fun, distraction, etc.  They never meant to be published, blah, blah.  Really?  Okay.  Well, some of these author’ s I’ve read about not only did get published but their books garnered a lot of attention in terms of money earned in advances/book deals or making Amazon bestseller lists.   And, for these authors, the books keep coming out, one after the other.  I’m still working on one. Forget about ‘after the other’ coming out any time soon.  And how did these authors do it?  I’m impressed, jealous, cynical and am not in this group of writers.  What’s great is that their dreams have come true.  They love to write and share with readers.  And I’ve learned a lot from authors in this camp as they tend to be as prolific in their blogging or interviews as in the number of books they release.  I appreciate all they’ve shared and inspired in me.

Another group of successful debut authors plug away for years, sometimes with children and full time jobs, on their novel.  Until, finally, it all comes together.  It’s a spectacular debut.  Publishers out-bid each other to get it.  What a reward.  Not only the money that allows this writer to focus on writing as their full time occupation finally – but also the critical acclaim.   Agents or publisher’s who are so impressed with it.  “Never read anything like it,” and so on.  Wow.  Once again impressed, not cynical, perhaps bitter and feeling small.  If one were meant to stumble upon the fact that one’s work is critically acclaimable I think I’d know by now.   So, while I can relate to how long it takes to complete one’s first novel, how it goes on and on and how life gets in the way only extending the work at hand, I am pretty sure I’m not in this group.  This group, too, has earned their dreams to come true.  You can’t help but be happy for them.

Where does that leave an aspiring debut author like me?  Or you if your book/business/goal isn’t on track for a quick rise to success and you’re not one of the contributing geniuses in your field.

Every story is different but allow me to say what it feels like for me at this point.  One of my many, or two to be exact, blog posts referred to my hope to finish my first draft.  Well, the good news is that what felt impossible back then, was not impossible at all!  In fact, it was around Thanksgiving last year that I completed my first draft.  And changed the name of my novel to “The Summoned Guest”.

At this point, innocent as I was, I invited a writer friend to view a DVD I purchased on the revision process called, So, Is it Done? produced by Elephant Rock Productions.  It was a helpful overview and I viewed it with anticipation about getting started.  My friend, on the other hand, looked sick, whenever she spoke about what was ahead for me.  I recall several, “I hate revising” statements as she shook her head.

I understand now.  My novel is approximately 150 thousand words so revising is a big task.  Between editing and editing and reworking some things to make the story more effective and getting beta reader feedback – it has been quite a journey, I’ll tell you.  Hopefully, if you read this, and you’re an aspiring anything, you won’t let this scare you.  Because on the plus side, I love what I’m doing so it has been one of the most satisfying projects I’ve ever done.  That’s a pretty huge payoff.  But, mentally, you do need to drive past the negative thoughts, which drag on to your vehicle, clanking and bouncing behind you like many tin cans on a rope.  The best “shut up” to give these thoughts is to simply keep working.  Like with my novel’s first draft, every time I had to tackle a once through edit I thought, “I can’t do this,” and every time – I did it.

Where am I today?  The final revisions and polishing stage. So, that’s very exciting.  My thoughts here?  “I can’t do this.”  Only now, that thought doesn’t phase me much.  It’s an old, worn out tune.  And less of an earworm than it used to be for me.  And . . . I keep on writing.

My beta readers consisted of my husband, sister, and brother in law and a friend, who is a fellow writer in the wings.  When we started, all was roses.  Eyes were closed to take scenes in, such were they enjoyed.  Chuckles that I had such imagination.  The wow’s and the rah rah’s flowed.  Then my brother in law stopped feeling the action scenes; my husband couldn’t get past my sentence structures; they all thought my leading characters needed more conflict.

This is not an average beta group.  There is definitely a post upcoming on my dearly beloved betas.

Suffice it to say, when my sister read my last chapter, she didn’t cry.  And she wanted to cry.  I was tired.  I faintly recall refusing to listen.  But she was right.  I reworked some things.  And this time it was better.  She cried.

In the final revisions, I’m flying solo so that I can hand over a completed manuscript for them to read (and hopefully enjoy!) as a novel should be read and not piecemeal which is how my first edited draft was handed over to them.

I know the two agents I plan to query.  Why only 2?  Again, an upcoming post.

For now, I wanted only to share with you what it’s been like to plug away when you are tired of plugging away but excited to be nearing the goal line.  It feels impossible like I can’t do it.  That’s how I know it’s doable.

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