Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Revision update!

Not done!

But closing in on the end of BLACK DOG, my paranormal YA werewolf story. Somehow it feels like I’ve been here before. Which, of course, I totally have.

I will probably finish (again) about Wednesday — nine days longer than I thought it would take. Not dreadful, but I did hope to get it all the way done before classes started. Sigh.

So! Thinking about the revision process:

Type a) writing new material, like a whole new chapter, even — easy, fun, fast.

Type b) making major changes, like adding a new character or taking out an old character or combining two characters or adding a major plot twist or whatever — not as easy, but not too disagreeable; fast-ish.

Type c) going through the whole ms while making an infinite series of judgment calls about whether each character “works” in each scene and whether each character arc is clear and whether you’re enough “in the head” of each viewpoint character — hard, tedious, totally not fun at all, sloooooow.

Probably not a coincidence that the part I hate doing takes much longer to get through!

I know from experience that I will wind up not sure whether the characters work well enough — should I fiddle some MORE with the character? I have a hard time saying Enough! and throwing my ms. to the sharks. However, as I say, I expect to declare myself finished Enough! with this one about Wednesday.

I am always very pleased, btw, when a REAL reader contacts me and says how great the characters are and how they fell in love with _______. Love that! Major validation! Not that I turn down compliments on other aspects of a book, mind you.

On the subject of revisions, check this out: THE INTERN.

A little while ago, INTERN heard from a writer-friend who had just gotten his first-ever revision letter from his agent.

“She started out by saying what an amazing concept I have and how much she adores the novel. Then she basically said the entire plot doesn’t make sense, the ending is one giant cliché, and she almost stopped reading after two pages because the first chapter’s so bad.”

How, wondered INTERN’s writer-friend, did his agent decide to sign him at all, when the manuscript was rife with so many embarrassing problems?

INTERN encouraged him to ask his agent this very question. A few days later, INTERN heard from him again: “She just fell in love with the concept.”

INTERN has heard similar stories from other first-time novelists, often substituting “voice” or “writing style” for “concept.” Conventional wisdom states that your manuscript should be as perfect as possible before going on the hunt for an agent. In truth, though, plenty of less-than-perfect manuscripts find representation—as long as they’re less-than-perfect in the right way.

I’m glad to say that my editorial comments have never been quite that comprehensive! But that’s a useful way of thinking about manuscripts, isn’t it? We all need help prying our fingers off a ms. and letting it go. Sheer boredom with it helps get the job done for me, but it helps to think it’s okay to be less than perfect! Throw that ms. to the sharks and find out if it’s less than perfect in the right way!

So, anyway — looking forward to a short break before starting Fall’s Revision #2!

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