This is part of a year-long series about those intrepid newcomers, The Class of 2k8. To help marketing efforts for debut novelists, these 28 novelists have banded together to create a group marketing effort.
Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains
Laurel Snyder LOVES Revising!
Well, to begin with, I should say that I LOVE revising. For me the real work of writing begins the minute I type the words “The End” (and yeah, I really do that). Because for me, the plotting stuff, the outlining and the narrative arc and the creation of some kind of “adventure” or “climax” is just what I do to justify getting to write the details.
Because I LOVE to write the details—the conversations and the descriptions of food, and what people are wearing. The settings and the jokes. The odd quirks. But I only get to pay attention to all of that fun stuff once I know the story will resolve itself. (I should say here that my background is in poetry, andthat until I began writing for kids a few years back I never had to deal with boring things like plot, so I tend to dread it. It just takes so looooong!)
So I tend to kind of RACE through a first draft, superfast and really sloppy. Like I’m basting a dress together with large loose stitches, or building the frame of a house. I make sure all the days fall into place, that my characters manage to DO something, and that the end will work. And then, when I revise (after asking a very nice friend—or my amazing agent—to read it and assure me it doesn’t totally suck), I get to go back and care.
I go back through—making several passes—and clean everything up. Sometimes I find a blank page that just says something like, “Page-long conversation about bugs and dead grandmothers goes here” or I’ll find a block of text that I’ve typed in red with a note that says, “This is dumb but I don’t know what to do here. Can you fix it?”
And by YOU I mean ME. Because these are notes that my draft 1 self made to my draft 2, 3, or 4 self. Revision for me is about getting to have a fresh pair of eyes when I return to the beginning and start over. Revision (and I do make many many passes) feels like a do-over each time. Each time the thing gets better, cleaner, tighter. And I know this may sound crazy, but often I don’t remember writing the thing. My draft 2 self will even get mad at my draft 1 self for leaving me with such a mess!
The problem I tend to have is that I often get waylaid at a midpoint, and then start over again, which means that the beginning of the book will sometimes get read twice as much as the end. This can result in a book that’s off-kilter, with a tight, funny beginning and an ending that feels rushed.
Of course, when that happens, my editor suggests, sweetly, that I just cut off the second half, and start over again.
And THAT is a kind of revising I could do without.
Look for these other 2k8 Stories:
March: Jody Feldman
April: Zu Vincent
April: M.P. Barker
May: Sarah Prineas
June: Daphne Grab
July: N.A. Nelson
August: Laurel Snyder
September: Nancy Viau
October: Ellen Booraem
October: P.J. Hoover
October: Courtney Sheinmel