Revising Attempt Number One

I sit at the desk in a Hilton Garden Inn staring at the cell phone box which perfectly fit all 535 pages of the printed first draft of Tarbin’s True Heir.

Between finishing the first draft and printing the ridiculous amount of paper, I completed a short story and five chapters in Gabriella and Periwinkle. (For everyone anxious for more of those young ones,  do not fret. It’s my next project and the writing for it is flowing nicely.)

Now it’s time to attack the initial attempt at producing a manuscript and transform the raw material into something edible… I mean, readable.

Problem One: How do I translate revising into word count?

I live by lists and spreadsheets. It’s been pretty simple to track my productivity by setting word count goals and sticking to them. I religiously use the spreadsheet I talked about in a previous blog: Apparently, Failure is an Option.  How do I translate this practice into the revision process? What is the equivalent productivity for chapter revision compared to words written? I’ve never revised anything before. I have NO idea how long it will take me to attack each issue.

Problem Two: What method of revising works best for me?

As you can see by the massive pile of paper, I believe printing the book and marking it up will work best. I do still keep journals in adorable blank page books. I jot down story ideas as they come to me in a book that never leaves my side. That way, when I’m looking for something to write, I don’t have to wait for inspiration. I have a book full, eager to be explored. A pen in my hand and the feel of paper under my wrist is comforting. Yet, is it more work for me to sift through the paper looking for the myriad changes to add to the digital file? Should I ditch my handicap and delve straight into the computer?

Problem Three: How much editing should I do during the revising process?

I’ve already established commas and I do not get along. But what about other grammatical issues? How many of those should I fix as I revise? Should that be a second revision while the first is reserved for plot and character development problems? Should I leave the editing to an editor and make my story sing instead?

Problem Four: When is the revision complete?

How do I know it’s done and ready for beta readers? I’ve heard legends about epic books that never go anywhere because the author can’t call it complete. When do I accept that the story is good enough to be sent out, even if it’s not perfect or everything I want it to be? When an agent gets a hold of it, they’re going to suggest changes anyway. What if they see something completely different than I did and the part that bothered me is not an issue at all?

Problem Five: Will I let fear stop me from succeeding?

This is my first novel, my first attempt at fulfilling a dream. I’m terrified of failure. I attend conferences and get bolstered every time to keep going. A couple months after the event, I’m shaking as I type, wondering if this dream could become a reality. If I see any pattern in the successful writer’s I’ve met, it’s consistent and dedicated hard work. That I’m NOT afraid of. Hard work and I go way back. But how much of success is talent? What if I don’t have the talent to separate my work from the myriad of collections already out in the world? What if I let fear prevent me from reaching my potential?

Too many problems. A life without problems is boring, right? I’m going to have to tackle them one at a time. I think I’ve already solved Problem One. I will count each chapter revised with my pen and paper as a page written which is approximately 250 words. With a goal of 789 words everyday, that is three full chapters and some change. I can do that. I hope. Maybe I should say I WILL do that.

With this week in Austin, away from children and pets and housework and emails (oh wait, I brought those with me…), I plan on getting as much revising done as possible in the hotel room. Wish me luck!

What are your methods for revising? What have you learned as you’ve progressed? How many of you are facing these exact problems right now?

For my selected reading today, I recommend Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert. For those of you who have read Dune, you understand the unique setting the planet of Arrakis presents. Add in a universal Jihad and a prophet Muad’dib, also known as Paul Atreides, and you get a political drama full of intrigue and pits and turns. There’s not as much action in this addition to the world of Dune, but the political upheaval could have been pulled from the headlines of our world. Well, you would have to add some Face Dancers and ghola and space ships, but otherwise, exactly the same.

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