Revision Feels Better

From Martha Brockenbrough’s interview with Scholastic editor Cheryl Klein:

How do you know when a revision is working? Is it hard for you, as an editor, to retain enough distance?

A revision is working when I don’t notice the issues anymore — or when I notice myself not noticing them, when I see a new clue laid in or plot development and think “Ah, nice work.” Generally, though, after a good revision, the manuscript just feels better, and makes me feel more, and more deeply.

I’m just starting revisions on my novel and keeping Klein’s comment in mind. I actually really enjoy the revision process–it can be hard work, but it’s so satisfying to discover new depth to characters or find a more exciting plot arch.

If you like Cheryl Klein’s interview, she will be leading a workshop on revision at the upcoming SCBWI conference in New York. So excited for the conference!

Start at the Beginning

From the WSJ, a nice reminder from Darin Strauss about beginnings:

The clearest guidance on this point may come from the Canadian writer Douglas Glover, a master of narrative structure. He compares a story’s protagonist to a boulder perched insecurely on a hilltop and suggests that we imagine a bird coming along to knock the boulder off the hill. That’s a perfect place to begin—the moment of impact, the start of the trouble. The motion of the boulder is the story.”

Strauss goes on to look at Kafka’s famous opening in The Metamorphosis. We don’t need to know who Gregor was and why he might have turned into a cockroach. First sentence: boom, he’s a bug. The reader is in.

I think this is especially important to remember on your first draft. Start out however you can (it’s important just to get words on paper), but keep in mind that the back story might not be as important as you think. Trying to keep this in mind as I power through my latest first draft.

It’s Just the Way I Write

I stumbled across this post by Mandy Hubbard about what authors have learned from their editors. My favorite is from Jennifer Brown, author of Hate List:

“On my last manuscript it was “just.” I spent an entire two-hour flight just deleting “justs.” Also, I learned from my copyeditor that Dumpster needs to be capitalized, and I’m pretty sure my copyeditor would jump up and down with glee if I learned the difference between “each other” and “one another.””

“Just” is my word too!! I’m so glad to hear someone else suffers from the “justs.” (At least two other authors on the list admit to being in the “just” club as well.) When I had my thesis defense for Queen of the Air, my thesis reader told me to go through and count how many justs were in the novel. Turns out there was at least one every page. I didn’t even notice it! Now I try to told back.

Make sure to click through for the whole list of editorial suggestions. It’s fun to see that even fantastic authors have their writerly ticks. What are yours?