Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tip#1 for the New Author: The Revision Process

Or, What I Wish I Had Known

I’ve just completed my third set of revisions and after much frustration and a little bit of fingernail chewing, I thought I’d pass on this tip I wish someone had told me.

I write for two different houses, which is common among ebook authors. The confusing part is remembering whose house styles require what. For instance, one of my publishers has a strict rule that internal thoughts are only italicized if there is no character tag, and the other house says internal dialogue is always italicized, accompanied by a tag or not.

When I set about working on my first edits, within the first couple of pages I found notations from my editor on issues that I didn’t know how to fix. I got a fearful welling of tension in my chest. Uh oh. What was I going to do? Write her a bunch of stupid questions like the total newbie that I was (am)?

I grabbed an empty notebook and wrote the first issue down down. Before I’d gotten to “The End,” I had a full page of notes in the book which has since come to be called “Crystal’s Big Book of Revisions.”

I had forgotten some of the things I noted at the beginning, but seeing them itemized in a list made it easier to knock them out one by one without having to start at the beginning of the manuscript and do a third sweep of the remaining revisions. It also made it easier to go about the research to answer my questions to myself in one sitting, and then fix them all in the manuscript.

1) Use a notebook to itemize issues in your manuscript as you go through your first revision.
2) Create a separate page, or section if need be, for each book and each revision number.
3) Don’t get hung up on the tough issues. Keep the progress going and come back to the problem points after you’ve had time to think.
4) Unless your publisher gave you a guide to their style rules, create a page or section for “house styles” so you have a reference for each revision, especially helpful if you write for more than one house.
5) Take a break every hour, at least, and get some fresh air. You’ve earned it, so don’t feel guilty.

6) Unless you’re a teeny bit crazy like I am, try not to schedule to releases in back to back months. I got veeeeery lucky when revisions one and two on book one and two came in on alternating schedules. Usually my luck never goes that well and if it hadn’t... well I don’t want to think about that. Even alternating, 6 weeks of revisions back to back nearly drove me to the breaking point.

And notebooks can be handy at other times, too. I keep a small one in the car for the very reasons Liz Massey blogs about the top 10 reasons to keep a writer’s notebook

Okay all you writers out there, if you could offer just one tip to the newly contracted author, what do you is the most important tip?

1 comment:

Savanna Kougar said...

Excellent advice, Crystal
I'm not that organized in writing down the different expectations of the different publishing houses.
For one thing, I discovered editors still differ in their expectations, or how they do edits, especially around commas. I can't keep track, truthfully.
Even though I've had some frustrating, hair-pulling very long moments while doing edits, what I discovered, so far, is that, over all, my editors have been great at explaining something I didn't understand and its all worked out great in the end. THANK YOU, EDITORS! Which is good, in my case, because I'm not up with the latest lingo or the preferred ways of writing now.
My best advice... if you are having editing difficulties, often another more experienced author from the same publishing house will be glad to help you out. THANK YOU TO RENEE KNOWLES AND NINA PIERCE.