Fresh eyes

Tonight, I started revising a middle grade novel. 


Six months ago, I thought I didn’t know how to revise this one any more.  I really, truly couldn’t see anything else I could do to make it better.

But now I can. 

How did I miss that spot in chapter two where the tension just dissipates?
Why isn’t there more with her best guy friend? 
What’s with the two characters who just go away mid-book? 

And while we’re at it…

Hey, you… antagonist over there in the corner… How come you didn’t say that great line in chapter one during my first draft?  Or even my ninth draft?  Not that I don’t appreciate you coming up with it  now, but still…

It’s a strange metaphor, but I feel like a film has lifted from this manuscript, and I’m seeing so much more than I did before.   Attacking it again is downright fun.

I’m wondering if it’s the passing of time, or growth as a writer, or new feedback, or a combination of all three.  If this is a familiar story in  your writing life, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

22 Replies on “Fresh eyes

  1. Time away always yields new eyes for me. A writer told me once that even after it’s published, she can’t stop editing it during readings, and that some of her early published ones make her cringe.

  2. Fresh eyes come in all three ways–“new feedback” and the “passing of time” help me see my story in a different way. Both of these show me different areas to revise.
    Feedback contributes to my “growth as a writer.”

    My learning curve has been huge during the past two years. I am still at a stage in my growth, a stage of huge jumps in my writing, so I will see my story in an entirely different light after reading a thread on writing on blueboards, or even reading a sentence about an aspect of writing craft.

    The latest concept that I learned about (today) is about the controlling belief of a character.

  3. This happens to me over and over again. It is one reason I haven’t read the finished book of Crooked — just the parts I’ve contemplated reading from. I don’t want to want to change something.

    This is also the reason I did not videotape my wedding, by the way. I want to remember it filmy.

  4. Here’s my pet theory:

    You (meaning writers in general) can revise a novel endlessly. I, too, added a small but important moment to my book after about, I don’t know, 20 revisions. Where was that idea before? Why didn’t it occur to me earlier? It fits so neatly into the scene. ??

    At some point, we are forced to stop revising by the book going to press.

    Otherwise, we would continue making changes forever.

    I’ve heard about writers who get up to read their books at signings, and edit the text as they’re reading.


  5. It’s definitely the first two for me. With each revision I grow more, see more and after each revision I let it sit some more only to come back to it with fresh eyes, fresh ideas. If I had feedback, it would only be better. So, yeah, it’s a combination.

  6. Ahhh, the refreshing feel of revisions, like a fresh spring morning!

    Just wanted to say that I am thanful to have you on my friendslist!

    Happy Spring Cleaning your Manuscript!


  7. I have nothing new to add except that this is why I often work on two things at once. Sometimes it’s two novels. Sometimes it’s a novel and something else (picture book, chapter book or even blogging). Clearing my head for even a short time allows me to return with fresh eyes…and more importantly a fresh brain.

    Now go back to studying bees… oh, that’s Loree Griffin Burns. I always get you two confused!


  8. kourtnee@ Madill school

    What inspired you to start writting books and how do you feel when you write them? Your presentation was awesome and I thought the hard tack was gross.

  9. hailey@madill school

    Kate, Spitfire is the best book i ever read!!! how did you come up with such great ideas?! your so awsome!!! i wish i was you very much

  10. Yes, it happens to me. Critique unlocks some of those doors, time unlocks others. Also, asking the characters to talk to me unlocks doors too. (For the last 3 nights, I’ve been asking my characters to talk to me–they’ve been living in my head for a couple of years, and they’re STILL surprising me with new stuff.)

  11. My teacher book club had dinner with author Chris Bohjalian last year, and he actually sat down with us and graded all of his published novels. The first got an F — the most recent, an A-. I so understand that whole concept of looking back.

  12. We didn’t videotape our wedding either, for the same reason. (Plus both of us worked in tv at the time and the idea of having a day without cameras seemed romantic!)

  13. I’ve heard about writers like that, too, and always thought it was a little crazy… until my first book came out. The copy I carry around has some pencil marks in it.

  14. Thanks for sharing your ideas – I’m always amazed when I return to a manuscript that I already thought I’d revised to death, only to find more opportunities.

  15. LOL! When Loree visited my school, at least five students came up to me in the hall the next day to ask if we’re related.

    We’re not – although I do like bees and can’t wait The Hive Detectives to come out.

  16. Re: kourtnee@ Madill school

    Thank you, Kourntnee! I’m going to put up a new post with answers to all of your classmates’ questions and yours soon!

  17. Re: hailey@madill school

    Wow! Thanks, Hailey! But trust me – you don’t want to be me. You just want to be the very best Hailey you can be. I hope that includes writing your own stories.

  18. It definitely takes another writer to understand the idea of characters talking to you. Someone asked me once why I can’t just write a story about this other local battle that took place during the War of 1812, and without thinking about it, I said that it was because I didn’t have any characters from that time talking to me yet. You should have seen the look I got!

  19. Come to Vermont! 🙂

    I’m already learning concepts from the Vermont College forum–an online board for students, alumni and faculty. (My residency doesn’t start until July.) Recent weekly literary topics included ‘endowed objects’ and ‘humor in serious books.’ I asked for book examples of an uncommon pov that I’m struggling with and they gave me a list of books and short stories to look at.

    A New York Times bestselling author is in my incoming class. So there is a mix of experience: writers who are published, writers with literary backgrounds, and writers like me–who are comparatively new to writing.

    (And yes–I’m excited to go to grad school–at VC!)