Saturday, June 2, 2012

Tales from the Revision Cave: Re-plot Your Novel in a Weekend

This week the L13s have been discussing the joy and pain of revision. For debut novelists, it's an exciting and scary time to receive a long form letter from your editor that breaks down all of the (many, many, many) changes they want you to make before they deem your book print worthy. My letter for WHISPERTOWN was 9 pages. Single-spaced. No big deal. I'm a pro. Sheeesh, 9 pages? Is that ALL?*

I followed the conventional advice, took some time to absorb the notes, jotted down some questions, then scheduled a call with my editor to bounce ideas. Cool. So far so good.

The conversation was wonderful and helpful. My editor is incredibly bright, warm, and encouraging. There was just one comment, in the midst of the call, that made me feel like I'd stepped into an empty elevator shaft. It went something like this, "You've got a pacing problem. You'll probably have to rip the whole thing apart to fix it."

Rip...the whole...huh?

Here's the thing, and I'm sure it's been brought up before, but a change creates a ripple that spreads throughout the manuscript. Many changes create many ripples. Combine that with rearranging scenes to fix pacing issues, and, well, you've got a bit of a logistical nightmare.

Editor: Lamar, are you still there?

Me: I'm here (breathe, breathe, breathe)

Editor: Now you're breathing really hard.

Me: Sorry.

So, I had a general idea of how to fix the problems we'd discussed. I needed to put together a new outline in preparation for a major rewrite. Same characters, same premise, same setting, but with some different areas of emphasis, some altered plot points. A lot of work, but it could be done.

Me: When should I get the outline to you?

Editor: The sooner the better, how about Monday?

It was Friday.

Me: No problem (breathe, breathe, breathe)*

While I've experienced a lot of joy with the realization of my life-long publishing dream, the weekend following this conversation was...daunting. While I could describe, in detail, the ups and downs of re-plotting my novel (on index cards because full-sized paper is scary) in an abbreviated time frame, I feel the following illustration will do:

With my mission complete, I submitted my outline and had it approved by the following weekend. Now I'm actively rewriting, with a much more generous deadline. Things are going well, and I know that, if I'm ever faced with a super tight revision deadline again, I can manage. I've worked for this my whole life. I can do this. I just have to relax and breathe, breathe, breathe....

*Actually, my wife came in when I was reading the letter. She asked me if that was sweat or tears rolling down my face. I told her it was probably a little of both. 

*My editor is not really this strict, she would've worked with me if I needed more time, but I chose not to stretch this out. Despite moments of extreme anxiety, I am a professional. Sometimes deadlines are tight.


  1. Wow, Lamar, that IS a tight deadline! I think I might have spontaneously combusted if my editor had given me a weekend to get an outline done. Good on you for getting it done, and best of luck with the revisions!

  2. Lamar, you can do it! I have faith in you!!!! Good luck!

  3. Thanks Emma and Ellen...that particular weekend was rough, but I'm moving right along on revisions. It's a grind, but I'm loving it. :)

  4. Wow! I love this post--and I, too, attempt to turn into the Hulk every time I'm faced with a seemingly impossible writing task. (No luck so far, though.) So glad you're back on smoother revision ground now.

  5. Awesome, Lamar. Cracked me up. ("Now you're breathing really hard." lol) :-)

  6. Caroline/Nicole, thanks! Glad you liked. :)

  7. I think that would have been a near death experience for me! Congrats for landing on your feet with catlike reflexes. Wow. Just thinking about that gives me shivers. I guess that's why I can't read horror!