“The best writing is rewriting.”
“So You Want to Be a Re(writer): How to Revise Your Work” — since I’m in the middle of a major revision of my historical fantasy for kids, this workshop given by Anica Mrose Rissi was tailor made for me. Anica is an executive editor at Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers and an author of a Simon & Schuster chapter-book series launching with Anna, Banana, & the Friendship Split. While Anica’s focus is children’s books, we can all fruitfully apply her advice. A few highlights:
Be brave — It takes as much courage to undertake a full revision as it does to get your story down on paper in a first draft. “A good revision usually involves a major overhaul,” notes Anica. “Most writers don’t push themselves far enough in their revisions. Be afraid of not changing enough!”
Fix it now — “Chances are really good that if you can see a problem in your work,” others will see it as well, according to Anica. So when you tackle a revision, don’t be lazy: Resist the temptation to gloss over any weaknesses you’ve pinpointed; instead, work to eliminate them. Your goal should be to have the best new version possible. The stronger your revision, the farther fresh readers can take you. As Anica suggested, “Don’t waste a fresh read on problems you already know about.”
Outline the book you’ve written — Once you have a full draft, consider outlining all the elements of your plot and your sub plot(s). This will help you see what you can take out and identify gaps or weaknesses. It will also help you map your plot and emotional arcs so you can see their interaction. One approach: Create a Post-It wall using different colors for different characters and/or to map major plot points.
What to look for in a major revision:
• Are your characters fully developed?
• Is your narrative voice compelling?
• Is your plot interesting and compelling?
• What’s the theme, the subtext — the fundamental truth you’re trying to convey?
• Do your plot arc and your emotional arc work well together?
• How’s your pacing: Do things happen when they should?
• How’s your prose: What needs polishing?
The major takeaway: Revision is challenging, but the results are well worth it. Write on!