More on Revision

At the beginning of 2008, one of my resolutions was to blog more about my writing process, mostly because I so appreciate writers who do.  So…it’s time for an update.  (Thanks to learningtoread , whose post today was a great reminder, and who shared some great revision ideas of her own!)

I’m nearing the end of the revision process, currently working on line edits for my Fall 2009 MG novel with Walker Books.

April 2007: I finish a rough draft of a novel called SWINGER OF BIRCHES, about a girl, her quirky family, and the school leaf collection project that’s ruining her life. Then I start revising. I revise…and revise…and share with critique partners…and revise some more.

July 2007:  I begin querying agents on said novel. 

July 2007-September 2007: I check my email.  I receive rejections. I mope a tiny bit.  I work on another book.

September 2007: Lovely agent sends me a personal rejection that causes me to say, "Aha! I need to ditch the first three chapters!"  I do this and start querying again.

November 2007:  Agent Jenn calls me to offer representation on SWINGER OF BIRCHES, as long as I’m game to do a few minor revisions.  And one more thing…we need to change the title.

January 2008: We decide MAPLE GIRL is a better title, and Jenn starts submitting to editors.

June 2008: MAPLE GIRL sells to Walker Books for Children as a Fall 2009 release.  I jump around and cheer.  Soon, I receive my editorial letter, five pages of terrific suggestions that include rewriting the first chapter and the last chapter, adding a chapter in the middle to help develop a relationship, adding a character into a scene, and getting rid of language that sounds more like 38-year-old me than my 12-year-old narrator.  And one more thing… we need to change the title.

July 2008:  I do all that stuff and email the manuscript back to my editor.  We talk about titles.  Privately, I whine about titles, wondering why books have to have them at all.  We decide not to decide on a title right now.

Last month, I received my second editorial letter — this one two pages long.  Suggestions from my brilliant editor include strengthening my main character’s reactions to some of the setbacks she faces, finessing the relationship between my main character and her friend/sort-of crush, and adding more autumn-in-Vermont flavor.  Another marked-up manuscript accompanies the letter, full of line edits — things like this…



September 2008: I work on the new issues and go page by page to address the line edits. 

Which brings us to today…  My editor and I have talked more about titles, and we think we have one. Maybe.  But we can’t say yet. And last night, I finished the page-by-page line edits.

What I’m left with now is an end-of-September deadline and a to-do list that I created for myself as I read through the manuscript during line edits.

  • add scenes with French class so market scene doesn’t feel episodic
  • check to see if there’s anyplace else "leaf game" needs to be changed to "tree game"
  • Mom’s job – make it clear earlier
  • Nonna’s age?
  • review L’s comments from critique & address
  • more autumn in Vermont

Truth be told, I’m saving that final revision job for last because I intend to savor every minute of it.  Wandering around New England in fall, sniffing the air and jotting down little details is my idea of writer heaven.  I embraced this revision strategy after reading posts like this one from cynthialord .  I love looking and listening with the eyes and ears of my main character, trying to notice the things she’d notice and imagine the things she’d say.  I’ve even been known to shop for her at garage sales…

Me:      Oh! Gianna would love that funky scarf!
Son:     Mom, Gianna’s not real.
Me:      Yeah, well she’d still really like it.

That’s where I’ll be this weekend after the Burlington Book Festival…driving around Vermont, walking through leaves, picking apples, drinking cider,  smelling woodsmoke, and taking notes. 

16 Replies on “More on Revision

  1. What a wonderful post. I’m going to add it to my memories to share with my copyediting/editing students next semester (so they can see what line edits look like).

    Your weekend plans sound lovely, but between you and me, I’m hoping you don’t smell much woodsmoke, because that will mean it’s gotten cold enough to start the wood stoves and I’m not ready for that yet–I want more warm weather!

    See you at the Book Festival!

  2. Heh, that sounds a lot the notes I leave for my crit partners. I use the ‘we know this already’ line a lot, as well as the unnatural dialogue bit. Thanks for showing pictures. I always wondered what a real editorial letter looks like 🙂

  3. Glad you’ve found a title–can’t wait to hear what it is.

    Depending on what’s going on, I’ll try to make it back to the Book Festival on Sunday. It would be nice to meet you.

    Ditto about the woodsmoke–my wood pile isn’t as tall as it should be.

  4. I love your shopping for your character at garage sales, love your son for pointing out reality, love what you put last on your to-do list, and love an editor who draws hearts in the margins of manuscripts!

    Great post! Thanks!

  5. I link-frogged to you from learningtoread’s post on revision. Your strategy sounds awesome. I’m jealous that you have fall already in VT; here in DC it’s still pretty summery. I totally do the “That’s such a Claire dress…” thing for my characters too, though. Good luck with your revisions!

  6. Thanks for stopping by, Jessica! Fall is just getting her toes wet in Vermont and Northern NY, but we do have some pretty nice looking maples already. The next three weeks or so should be gorgeous.

  7. It was great to see you this weekend – and by all means, feel free to share my line edits with your kids. I use them with my 7th graders all the time, and they’re always very entertained that their teacher has to do things over again.