Amy Holder debuts with THE LIPSTICK LAWS
Introduced first in 2007, debut children’s authors have formed a cooperative effort to market their books. I featured Revision Stories from the Classes of 2k8 and 2k9 and this feature returns this year with the Class of 2k11.
Guest post by Amy Holder
Black, white, gray, red–and a machete
Honor Your Process. The process of revising is not black and white, and its gray area is vast and subjective. What works for some won’t work for others, so it’s important to know what works best for you and your writing style. This comes with trial and error. Chocolate consumption may also help. For me, I’ve found that hibernation is an essential part of revising. I’m not talking about gorging myself on Thin Mint cookies before sleeping for months upon finishing a first draft (although that might be tempting)… I’m talking about putting away my finished draft for a couple weeks and detaching a bit from it before coming back to it with a red pen and machete. Revising a manuscript after some time away from it helps me read and revise it with more of an impartial editorial eye. It also allows me to cut unnecessary content without feeling like I’m cutting off my left arm.
Murder Your Characters. Another extremely helpful revision tip I use is about the characters. I believe that characters drive a story, and a great plot without compelling characters can fail miserably. One of the first things I do when revising is cut characters that don’t add anything to the plot and story scenes. If your storyline wouldn’t miss one of your characters, it’s time to give that character the axe. While revising The Lipstick Laws, I cut five characters at various points of revision. FIVE CHARACTERS! That’s like a semi-crowded elevator! The result was a cleaner storyline, less character confusion, and a more concise and manageable cast of personalities.
Focus on Remaining Characters. After I got rid of all the dead weight characters, I was able to focus more on the characters that I kept. I concentrated on their back stories, unique characteristics, patterns of speech, interactions, etc. I really tried to make each character’s voice recognizable, so that if all the names were erased from the manuscript, a reader would still be able to tell the characters apart.
Soften Evil Characters; Roughen Sweet Ones. Last but not least, I picked up a great character revision tip from James Scott Bell’s fabulous book (which I highly recommend): Revision & Self-Editing. His advice was to avoid making a villain/oppositional character all bad (and if a villain is mostly bad, give him/her a sympathetic reason), and never make a protagonist all good. Most “bad” people have at least one redeeming quality and a back story to their antagonistic characteristics, whereas all “good people” make mistakes at times and have flaws. I took this tip and ran with it, applying it to The Lipstick Laws during revision. With this pointer, I was able to make my protagonist and antagonist a lot more well-rounded, believable, interesting and less one-dimensional.
These are just a few of the things that have helped me with my own revisions. I hope you’ll find them useful when you revise as well!