Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Revisions, they're like potato chips

Okay, I’m back from Dragon*Con, but I’m not going to talk about that today. Seriously, that’ll be a big post with awesome pictures and a lot of fangirl squee on my part.

Today I'm going to talk about revisions and the process because I don't drone on about myself enough on this blog (that was sarcasm, for the record).

Generally speaking most people are too close to their work to realize that it should be revised in a particular way (sorry to use their as a single gender neutral pronoun, seriously, the English language desperately needs one). Everyone has this problem to some degree. What makes it hard is when you get feedback that’s all “Yay, I loved this, I wouldn’t change a thing.” That’s great to hear—and trust me, I love hearing that all my hard work has paid off and my manuscript is perfect—except when the manuscript isn’t perfect. Okay, well maybe perfect isn’t the right word for it; I mean, perfect? That’s a high bar, and I haven’t seen too many people cross it, so we’ll go for competent, or maybe even great. Passable and good are different, and sometimes it can be really hard to see what would take a manuscript from good to great, or okay to superb.

And for me, if it’s something I’ve written, generally I can’t see what needs help at all. Of course my writing is perfect. Not! (Wait, did I just date myself with an obnoxiousism from my own youth? Any second I’m going to see Bill and Ted in their phone booth). For me, revisions, the ones I really need are like goals in hockey.

Yeah, that’s a great simile. I’m sure everyone’s rolling their eyes at me, but hear me out. See I play forward, and win or lose, there’s really only one thing a forward is supposed to do: score goals. And I’m not very good at it. I’m a play maker, I do a lot of set up, but I’m not very good at putting the biscuit in the basket (as they say). That is, I’m not very good at it until suddenly I am. It’s like an invisible force field covering the goal is removed, and the puck just can’t get in their fast enough. It’s this crazy feeling where it’s all resistance and it feels like it will never happen, but once it does it feels like it was so easy that I find myself scratching my head. Why was it so hard to get that silly little three inch disc of rubber through the four feet between the goal posts?

It’s a matter of perception. The mountain looks bigger from the bottom. And revisions seem impossible, and improbable, so why bother. The manuscript is already good enough.

That’s about the time that really great feedback comes in for me. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about things, and decided that my work is already good enough. Then someone makes a suggestion, and I find myself scratching my head. Why was that so hard to see before? Why couldn’t I have swapped that stuff around myself? The suggestions were so simple, so perfect, that I looked at my manuscript and did a face palm. It was that obvious, and it almost felt like it was my own idea.

Which brings me to the present. *Sigh* I’m revising my manuscript. It’s a good thing because it will make the manuscript SO. MUCH. BETTER. And it’s a bad thing because two weeks ago I entered my first page into a contest. Regardless of whether I win or not, I’m smashing my head against my desk. This feedback came totally out of the blue, I really didn’t expect it, and I’d already put all the other feedback I’ve gotten to good use. At the time, it really was “ready to go” (one of the rules of the contest). But now that I have this awesome feedback, it’s most definitely NOT ready. ::Bangs head on desk again for good measure::

It’s not like I really thought I had a major chance with this contest (I mean seriously, publishing is a wild competitive business, and my work might not be there yet, it might not be the agent’s cup of tea, it might sound like fifty million other queries she’s just read, you know—publishing), but on the off chance that I sparked some interest, I know I’m just going to kick myself forever if Agent Awesome wants to read my stuff. I mean crap, I put it out there with the big ole stamp of “READY FOR PRIME TIME,” and now I know in my deepest heart that it wasn’t. That just can’t look good “Uhhh, you wanted to read *my* manuscript? Uh, but it’s, uh, not umm ready yet.”

I feel like I haven’t done my presentation for the end of the class, and I’m going to have to beg for an extension, only worse, there isn’t an extension to be had, just a pass and a note to not call again with this project.

So yeah, I’m in the most awkward point of hoping that my first page doesn’t win something, but at the same time really really hoping that it does create enough interest for Agent Awesome to be like “Sounds cool, take your time and finish it right, then send it my way.”

I’d say “Learn from my fail,” but I really didn’t expect my perception to change so completely on this manuscript to the point where I’d almost like to redact my entry.

Still, I’m told this is a fairly common problem writers find themselves in, so I’m sure Agent Awesome has seen this sort of thing before. And hey, I might not win anything, so this could be the classic case of anxiety over nothing.

Right, back to work for me.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure that the agent has seen this before. Work gets changed all the time, right up until publication. All you can do is make the changes you want to do now. If you win then great, you'll have something even better to show her; and if you don't, you'll still have something even better :-0

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