Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Revision Decision

By Lucienne Diver, @LucienneDiver

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: I'm a big fan of revisions. I love seeing a rough draft of a novel blossom into something deep and compelling (and cringe when the opposite happens). Revisions aren't everyone's favorite thing, but they're a critical part of any writer's process. Lucienne Diver takes the podium today to share more thoughts on why this is so important.

Lucienne Diver is the author of the popular Vamped series of young adult novels (think Clueless meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and the Latter-Day Olympians contemporary fantasy series, featuring a heroine who can, quite literally, stop men in their tracks. Long and Short Reviews gave it her favorite pull-quote of all times, "a delightful urban fantasy, a clever mix of Janet Evanovich and Rick Riordan." Trickster Blood, a prequel story to the Latter-Day Olympians series is a **free** read, just out, and the fifth novel, BLOOD HUNT, is forthcoming October 27th. Other series titles: BAD BLOOD, CRAZY IN THE BLOOD, RISE OF THE BLOOD and BATTLE FOR THE BLOOD.

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Take it away Lucienne...

Have you ever heard the sound of one hand clapping? I'm not talking about a hand slapped against a thigh or pounding on a table. I'm talking about one hand, trying to do it all alone. No? Well, you probably never will.

That's how I feel about an author or artist trying to go it all alone, not listening to any voices but the ones in their heads. Refusing revision or other perspectives and calling it sticking to their guns instead of stubborn lack of growth. If you're only exposed to your own thoughts and ideas, how do you grow? How do you write characters who see things from different perspectives?

No writer, no artist should be an island. Yes, you need to have a clear voice and to stay true to it, but beyond that, it's so important to solicit and be open to feedback. For oh so many reasons. Here are a few:

We all start with inherent understandings that others may not share. 

Whether it's regional language that a larger, national or international audience might not share or knowledge on which we've based our world that we expect everyone to know, we'll take for granted certain things that our readers may not. It's vital to have an external point of view to let you know if you're getting things across the way you've intended.

On that note, because we know what we meant to say, we sometimes assume we've said it. 

But not everything that's in our head makes it onto the page. Sometimes things are so clear to us we neglect to draw the picture for the reader. The flipside of that is that other times we explain or describe too much, perhaps impressed with our thinking or the things we've learned in our research. External readers—agents, editors, critique groups or partners—can help you find the right hold on the reins of your story.

Sometimes we phone it in. 

I know that none of us wants to admit this, but sometimes we don't know how to handle a particular thing and we gloss it, hoping no one will notice. Readers and reviewers will certainly call you on it if no one does it prior to publication and if you don't put the work in to make it right.

Critique partners, editors and agents will push you.

The more you work with them, the more you'll learn and the more you'll begin to hear them in your head. Maybe not when you write, where you can't hear anything over the muse whispering in your ear, but certainly when you revise. The more you've learned and overcome in the past, the easier things are in the future. The more you're challenged and rise to the occasion, the more you learn to trust yourself and ease up on the stress, the more fear of failure takes a back seat. It never really goes away, and maybe it shouldn't. It keeps you sharp, but it can be debilitating if it's too biting.

I sold my very first young adult novel, VAMPED, on a revise and resubmit. If I hadn't been willing to put in the work—and, really, it was more of an absolute rewrite—it would never have sold. Or if it had or if I'd self-published it at that point, it would never have achieved the same success or gone through more than a single printing. I'm doing a revise and resubmit now on a young adult thriller. I'm hoping it will have the same results, but however things turn out, the book is so much stronger for having the editor's perspective.

It's hard to think of putting in all that work "on spec"—without any promise of acquisition—but whether it's finishing a novel you were hoping to sell on a sample or doing a revision, assuming the editor's notes resonate with you, the result is a more complete and published product. And all that work will pay off, either in selling it to the publisher or directly to your readers.

I love writing. I hate revisions. But I love having revised. I love the end result. And I do think I'm a better writer today because of the amazing efforts of readers, critiquers, editors and agents.

About Blood Hunt, Latter-Day Olympians, Book 5

Fame is no longer the name of the game…it’s survival.

Latter-Day Olympians, Book 5

Tori Karacis is back in L.A., relieved to once again match her passport photo thanks to a tattoo that controls her gargoyle-esque wings. Her newest case doesn’t involve gods or an impending apocalypse. It does, however, involve murder.

Jessica Roland’s suspicions began when her brothers returned from Egypt eerily different. The terror kicked in with the ritualistic murder of her parents. Her real brothers would never have done such a thing, yet their guilt seems indisputable. What could it be? Curse of the Pharaohs? Some kind of brain-eating bacteria?

At the scene of a second attack, there’s evidence it’s the work of Set, the god of chaos, who should have been locked away a long time ago. And hello, there’s a new arrival. Neith, a warrior goddess who’s got the hots for Tori’s ex, Nick Armani.

Tori should be cool with that. After all, she’s involved with Apollo—that Apollo. Still, it’s a bit much for Neith to ask for seduction advice! Meanwhile, Set is gaining strength, chaos is leaking all over the place, and L.A. is a powder keg set to blow.

Warning: Relationships heat up and danger mounts. Prepare for chills, thrills and kills when Chaos makes its Hollywood debut.

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  1. Yes, Lucienne, revisions can be painful. But you are so right: not only are they necessary, but they are empowering. At least the end result is.

    One word of caution on critique partners: you can't please all the people all of the time. I recently got totally blocked on my work in progress because of the well-meaning advice of a critique partner, who essentially trashed the entire story concept. After listening to her enthusiastic prescription as to "fixing" the book, I was devastated.

    I'd been submitting the chapters of this book, month by month, to a very large online critique group I belong to. After almost hitting "delete" on the entire file, I went back and read the critiques I'd gotten over the last months for the first five chapters - 10 in all, and only one person was overly critical, but not of the plot, but of the hero. Most of the feedback was helpful and encouraging.

    Critique partners are great, but don't stick with just one or two. The bigger the pool you draw feedback from, the more realistically you can evaluate its usefulness.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post!

  2. I agree entirely! The advice should resonate with you, if not immediately then after you've had time to mull it over and to go back to the book after a bit of time and distance. I find there are two kinds of editors/critiquers: those who help you realize your vision and those who try to impose their own. You definitely want to avoid the latter!

  3. A few years ago, when I was writing my first novel, I was a minimalist. I was guilty of having it all in my head not on paper. Unfortunately, my potential readers need it on paper. Fortunately, my husband and my writing group helped me overcome my minimalist tendencies.
    I enjoy revising. It means that I don't have to face that blank screen. It's like writing with a friend--a friend who doesn't mind if I step all over her words, because that friend is me.

    1. Leanne, that's a great way to look at it! I guess I dread revisions, because I always think, "Well, if I knew how to do that, I'd have gotten it right the first time!" But that's why I need the revisions so badly. They push me more than anything else, and I'm better for it.