Christina Mandelski: 2k11

Christina Mandelski Debuts with THE SWEETEST THING

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.

Revision: A Survivor’s Checklist

Guest post by Christina Mandelski
I’ve had many writers profess to me their love of revision, claiming that they get some sort of weird thrill from the process.

I think they’re lying.

I’m not saying that there’s absolutely no joy in revision. In fact, I love revision – when it’s over. Mostly, though, I think revision is hard.

When I’m pounding out that first draft, I throw caution to the wind – my goal is to get the story out. I do love that part. But revision means I have to sit down, pay attention, focus and make it work. This scares me.

Still, no one can argue that revision isn’t necessary, it IS. And certainly, after all the time, effort and love you’ve put into your story, you owe it to yourself to hone it until it sings.

But where to begin? Over the years I have developed a list of three things that I need to ensure a successful revision. They are:

  • A plan.
  • Someone/thing to make me accountable.
  • Good walking shoes.

#1: A plan of revision.

I can’t go into revision willy-nilly. I make a list of all thoughts, notes, suggestions from other readers. Even if an idea sounds ridiculous, I write it down, just in case. Then I sit down and begin to re-type the manuscript, keeping one eye on my to-do list.

#2: Accountability

This leads to #2. I need something to keep me on task, to keep my butt in the revision chair. For me, that’s usually my critique group, who expect to read work from me every other week. Deadlines also help: before we leave for vacation, in time to submit for a conference critique, before my agent gives birth. In other words, something to keep me opening the document every day.

#3: Walking On

And finally, #3. Whether working on your tenth book or preparing for your very first submission, you need to ask and answer certain difficult questions: “Why is the main character doing such-and-such? What is their motivation? Is this plot twist believable? If not, what can I do to make it believable?”

Answering these questions can feel overwhelming and even impossible, but this step is crucial to the success of your manuscript. This is also the point where you may want to throw your laptop across the room.

That’s when I go to get my walking shoes. Usually, in the course of a thirty minute walk, my mind is able to focus on the problem at hand, and inevitably I come up with a solution. Is it always the right solution? No, but it’s a start – it is forward momentum.

Keep moving forward, this is key. Ask and answer the tough questions, meet real or imaginary deadlines, stick to the plan, and one day, you’ll be on the last page of your manuscript with a stronger story than when you began. You’ll be the last one on the island. A true revision survivor.

What about you? What is on your revision survival checklist?

Note: Christina Mandelski is one of four 2011 debut novelist coming out of Darcy Pattison’s Novel Revision Retreat. Read what Christina says about the retreat.

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