Monday, March 22, 2010

The Revision Tango

Today, I got my much-anticipated feedback from the lovely Weronika Janczuk's query and 10 pages contest. It was a mixed bag of notes - some positive things, a lot of suggestions for things to improve, but overall I feel really great about what she suggested. It's totally manageable, and I feel completely capable of handling the revisions she's suggested for me. (For the MS anyway. Query wrangling is another story...but I still have time on that one.)

One notable comment she made was that, at one point, she wasn't quite sure what was going on, and she wanted a little more background about the world and where Kaia was coming from. I couldn't help but smile when I read this, and think back to the first major set of critiques I ever my conference in January, where three of the ten people reading my pages said there was a little too much info dump and that I needed to take some of the background stuff out and integrate it throughout the chapter a little better. So I took their advice and cut out the background stuff.

Apparently, I went a little too far.

Fortunately, this is a relatively easy fix. I know my world. I have notes on it, and I saved my deleted scenes - although my writing has grown so much since January none of those words would make it in as-is. Still, this whole revision process reminds me of a complicated dance - a tango, if you will. Just when you think you've taken all the right steps forward, you have to take three steps back.

You need to dance with the words. Play with them on the page until the feel right to you. Then let someone else take them out for a spin and see how they feel. Do your words make for a smooth partnership? Or are your readers going to be left confused, dancing with two left feet?

Sometimes, you'll do something to your WIP, and you'll be convinced that it's the right decision. You might cut a great scene - or leave one in. But when you step back and look at the book as a whole, maybe that one decision - that small bit of choreography - throws off the rhythm of your entire project. Instead of waltzing along a moonlit path, suddenly, with just two or three sentences - or even words! - your book is doing the Macarena. (And this is sooooo not 1998.)

So don't be afraid to dance with your book. When you add a few steps in, look at it as a whole and make sure it still works. And know that sometimes, the dance has to start over again, and the steps you took out need to get put back in.

And, just for fun, because this video is totally awesome, and I once saw this guy perform live at a sorority convention (OMG yes I was in a sorority, no judgment - in fact, I was the president, because I was awesome.), I give you The Evolution of Dance: 


  1. That was so fun! Thanks for sharing this!!

    I have a friend who meant to write a story in one genre, but her publisher wanted it to be another genre, so they're having her cut some stuff out and add another POV in. It's been hard for her. At times she wonders if it's been the right move--but her story IS getting published and she is learning a lot in the process.

    I've definitely seen how editing a MS can throw the beat of the whole story off. It's happened with mine, but my editor is helping me find the beat again. Thank goodness we don't have to do this all alone!! Great post!

  2. Oh this is so true, its so much give and take, blend, rewind, rewrite, add, delete. Le sigh. But it is a fun dance:-)

  3. Great post and a great way of looking at the process. It's amazing what the slighest bit of editing can do to the ryythm, flow, tone of a piece. And what one small revision means in terms of having to make other changes along the way. Not to mention how your own growth as a writer factors into the process. I'll go back to something I haven't worked on in a while and it's like I didn't even write it.

  4. No sorority judgment here! ;-)

  5. Ahhh, the back and forth of the revision process. It is a little frustrating when you take the advice of one person and then the next person who crits suggests the total opposite. I wonder if there ever comes a point when you have to leave it like you like it and move on. I don't know...:)

  6. Having just received a few revision recommendations from my agent that aren't too different from yours, I'm in a similar situation. And what was unexpected was that while, sure, I fantasized she would say "It's PERFECT! I'm pitching it TODAY!" I wasn't at all disappointed with her suggestions. Instead, I was excited to think about them and find a way to incorporate them.

    Have fun revising!

  7. Always looking for a good analogy to keep revision fresh and fun! thanks!

  8. Great post, Heather, and such good advice. I love the comparison of revision to dance.

    Good luck with your revisions. :-)

  9. Sometimes I feel like it's more of a revision breakdance than tango - a free for all where no one really knows what anyone else is going to do next and sometimes you lose your balance and fall on your face. I love this post!

  10. That was a great dancing analogy. It made perfect sense!

  11. Love this post. Especially because it's all about dancing and writing (two of my fav things). Glad to hear Weronika gave you some helpful feedback. Good luck with your Tango.

  12. This is such a great post! Definitely bookmarking for revisions. :D While I'm an overwriter, sometimes, I tend to withhold too much information on the first draft (something Weronika also pointed out on her critique of my pages).


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