Sometimes I feel like I’m doing this writing thing backwards. Right now, I’m reading through the short stories I’ve drafted and I’m creating outlines for them.
But don’t you outline first, you ask? For a novel, yes. It just has too many moving parts and if I purely try to discovery write, I will get lost in the weeds and bogged down. But with short stories, I usually just have the idea that I want to do, the character that I want to explore, and run with it. That’s why short stories are fun for me.
Maybe the reason I love short stories is that I’m an outliner by necessity for novels, but in my heart I’m a discovery writer. I tried outlining with short stories, but I discover so much about my characters as I’m writing them, which invariably changes the outline because their decisions have to make sense for them. And there’s a lot less room to get lost in a short story. A couple characters, a single or at most two desires… I can keep all the moving parts in mind at once.
But this means my first draft of short stories tend to meander. And so revision is mostly tightening them up, centering them on the desire and what they need to do to get there and what is or is not getting met. This is particularly true of the story I’m revising right now for my Patreon project. It’s a lovely atmospheric bit of writing… but it doesn’t do what short stories need to do. As I’m reading it and outlining it, I realize I’m going to have to entirely gut and redo the middle.
Such is the writer life.
Let me briefly interrupt your regularly scheduled substantive update to announce that as of yesterday, my manuscript is back to the agent who was interested in seeing a revision. My excitement knows no bounds! Ahem.
This is the sixth and last post in my series of posts (one, two, three, four, and five) about the process I engaged in to revise my manuscript. While the process is similar to the process I used the first time , this one has worked out exceptionally well for me, and I intend to use it as a general revisions process in the future.
My process culminated in the final reads–yes, there was more than one. The first read was in Scrivener, full screen, at 800% font. In essence, the font choice only fit a sentence a page. And I combed through those sentences looking for typos, words that didn’t make sense, missing punctuation, and redundant word choices. I read it aloud to myself to make sure the sentences flowed properly. This was my “typographical read” and it took me about two days.
Some people have suggested reading your work backward so that you don’t get invested in the prose. I may do that next time, because I did at points find myself just reading along. I sometimes had to go back and read a chapter again.
After I compiled my manuscript into a word processor, I checked the entire document for spelling. My word processor helpfully pointed out several places where I had missed corrections on my first final read. Doubled words are the bane of my existence. My brain apparently just refuses to recognize them. I then gave it a final, quick read to make sure that everything was in place and Scrivener hadn’t left out a chapter or included a scene I had cut.
And that was it. The entire two-plus-month-long process that overshadowed my life and ate all of my “free” time was complete.
Microrevisions are done! They’re done they’re done they’re done THEY’RE DONE! The most tedious part of revisions? Done.
And I have to say, this manuscript is looking really good. The original manuscript was 79k words. After doing major revisions, it was up to 83k words. The final result? 70,687 words. This prose is so tight, it’s bolted to the floor.
I have only three things left to do before I resubmit to the agent:
1) Typographical revision. Fixing typographical errors. I swear, self, I will cut you if you try to start revising during the typo check. TYPO FIXING ONLY.
2) Compilation. I need to compile my Scrivener document into a format the agent wants to read.
3) Final read. Making sure Scrivener didn’t bork anything. Last-minute check for typos I missed during the typo check.
The combined total of these three steps should only take the rest of the weekend. Which means that by Monday, barring unforeseen circumstances, I should have this manuscript back to the agent. And then more waiting.
But for now, I’m so excited!
I missed my Friday update and now my Monday update is going to be combined with the update part. Why, you ask?
A combination of depression and grinding on this manuscript to make up for it.
I’m done with micro-revisions through chapter 23 (of 34). But in the process, I failed to pace myself last weekend, and entirely blew out my brain. I spent several days during the week with my brain going NO NO NO every time I even walked by Scrivener, and forcing it just made me want to go back to bed semi-permanently.
This is why it’s important to know how your mind works when you struggle with something like depression. I deliberately made sure I told the agent longer than I thought I would need so that I could wiggle room if it came to it. After a 2-day enforced break from writing to recharge, I’m again ready to roll. But I’m behind on my own personal deadline by about a week, so off I go!
I’m starting to get my first betas in (including my second-opinion sensitivity beta) and I’ve asked people to get back to me by the 17th, so hopefully I’ll have enough good feedback to go on.
So far, it seems like the changes have largely the suggested improvements from the agent, at least as I understood them. Two people have noted one of the “fixes” as creating more issues, so I’m going to have to take a hard look at that one and either remove it or re-evaluate the presentation.
While I’m waiting on the rest of the betas to get in, I’ve started the process of tedious micro-revisions on the beginning (which has received mostly positive feedback, so I’m sure it won’t require any more major changes). I’m half way through chapter 4 with the micro-revisions, and seem to be able to only do about a chapter a day. This could be problematic as I get closer to my self-set deadline. Especially since this coming weekend is a mess of family commitments.
Fortunately, I have an all-day write-in with CCWA coming up next Saturday, and a few vacation days at the end of July where I should be able to get major work done.
One of my goals is to get back under 80k words. The end of the major revisions saw me at almost 83k words, and ideally I’d like to get back under 79k solely by tuning my prose. I guess we’ll see!
The first set of major revisions is done! And I’ve sent the novel out with new betas.
I’m taking a couple of days to refresh and spend time with my family, then starting on minor language revisions.
Revisions done through chapter 32 of 34. Should finish this up tomorrow, and then off to my new betas it goes!
I’m about 22 chapters through the revisions on the Plague Novel, with about 15 to go. It’s really feeling like a marathon at this point, and I’ve fallen behind my goals a little, but I hope to catch up over the upcoming holiday weekend..
This week was a heavy writing week. Yesterday, I finished rereading the Plague Novel and taking notes about things to revise and places to strengthen with the agent’s feedback in mind. Today, I’ve been working on a prologue.
Agent feedback thus far seems to work a lot like writing group feedback: a list of issues that I, as the writer, must decide whether to address and, if so, figure out solutions to. So now I have 32 handwritten pages of notes, thoughts, and possible fixes that I made as I went through the novel.
Part of me is embarrassed that my past self thought this was good enough to submit. It just goes to show that the more you practice an art, the better you get at critically evaluating your past work. I had to keep reminding myself that the purpose of this exercise is to fix it–I’ll rebuild it stronger and into a form that current me can be proud of.
And I’m well on the way. This weekend’s work will include finishing and revising the prologue and starting to work on the revisions that I noted. It’s going to be a struggle to stay away from small-scale sentence level stuff, but I’d like this first pass to focus on the larger issues. Only after I have the major revisions done will I give it a final fine-tooth pass before sending it to new beta readers.
My personal deadlines for myself are set and in my calendar. As long as I keep trekking forward at my present rate, I should have it back to the agent when I said I would.
This week has been a little crazy. The early week was spent finishing the first draft of a short story, another short set in the tattoo magic world, in which the story I posted a few weeks ago was set.
Then something amazing happened on Tuesday. I received a “revise and resubmit” email from one of the agents who requested a full manuscript of the Plague Novel. This is kind of a big deal, since it was really the best thing I was expecting as an unpublished, untested writer. Especially from an agent as strongly promotional of diverse and LGBTQ+ books as this agent is (we’re talking the top of my short list, guys). After reading the email five or six times, I found that I agreed with the deficiencies that she identified in my story, and I let her know that I would be revising with her suggestions in mind.
Cue hard gear change. The rest of the week has been devoted to re-familiarizing myself with the plague novel, taking notes, and noting where I might make changes to address the concerns. Keeping in mind that I’ve written one full and a second partial novel with completely different characters and settings since I finished the Plague Novel, it has kind of been a process. I’m also spotting an embarrassing amount of typos and things that I really should have caught before sending it out on submission. Oh well, it’s too late to beat myself up about that now.
I’m hoping to get this revision done within the month, have a new round of betas, and do a second revision based on the betas before sending it back. I want to get this done in a timely way but without rushing. My goal is to have it ready to send back to the agent after two months, but definitely within three. Wish me luck!