It's been two weeks now since I got the fabulous, extensive, probing critical comments on my novel-in-progress from my new writing group. Today I finally faced what I need to do to revise the book before submitting it to my publisher the first week of the new year.
It's so scary, facing a massive revision. In this case, I had comments from six other writers. Most were sent to me on electronic files of the manuscript, using the Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word. So even the logistics of processing the comments proved daunting. How could I keep track of six different sets of changes in six different files? Some comments were huge, others were tiny. Which ones to tackle first? Worst, some contradicted each other. Whose advice should I follow?
Step one for me, which I did right away, so as to feel less overwhelmed, was to go through each manuscript transcribing the comments onto one master copy. My system here is to insert the comments all in caps, directly into my text. Tiny comments I just deal with right away. This goes against some excellent writing advice that says to make big changes first, so you don't spent time wallpapering a wall that will just be torn down. But I find it so cheering to deal with low-hanging fruit so I can feel that at least I've accomplished something.
Step two for me was to let some time go by so that I could have a little more distance from the manuscript. Here Christmas was a fortunate distraction.
Step three was what I did today: simply facing the revisions themselves. I was buoyed by a quotation from Joseph Conrad that my sister posted on Facebook in honor of his December birthday: "Facing it - always facing it - is the way to get through."
So today I faced the revisions. I started in Chapter One and made what changes I could. Whenever I panicked about cutting a scene, I saved it into an "outtakes" file so I'd stress less about hitting the delete key. I focused most on one particular revision issue: the not-so-small matter of clarifying what the story, at its most basic level, is about. With the help of the writing group comments, I realized that certain early scenes were actually red herrings, leading the reader's attention astray. I loved those scenes. They are now gone. (Well, moved to the outtakes file.) I need to write at least one new scene to fill a hole left by their deletion; I'll do that later. Today I just focused on getting the bare bones of the structure of the book's "through story" in place.
Next up will be figuring out the back story of Autumn's brother, Hunter. And what exactly is going on with her crush on Cameron, and can I make her attraction to him more believable? I need to add new scenes toward the end of the book to show onstage developments that I had lazily allowed to happen offstage. There is plenty more to do, believe you me!
But today I faced the revisions.Tomorrow I'll face them again. For "facing it - always facing it - is the way to get through."