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Jay Lake
Date: 2009-03-19 04:14
Subject: [process] The gentle art of revision, OR, how to read your own book nine times
Security: Public
Tags:pinion, process, publishing, revision, tourbillion, writing
I am always learning from my writing. I'm now most of the way through the revision process on Pinion, f/k/a Tourbillon.

The rough draft, written last fall, was 199,400 words long.

On 3/4 I did a close read of it, editing as I went along. I finished that on 3/10. The main purpose of that draft was to get the book firmly inside my head. The manuscript stood at 198,800

3/12-3/13 I did a pass for deep, hard cuts at the scene and sub-scene level. With the book in my head, I could much more effectively judge where certain elements could be cut. This was pretty difficult, as Pinion has six point of view characters, with intertwined plot arcs. So cutting in one place often created structural, plot or continuity problems elsewhere. That got me down to 168,800.

3/14-3/18 I did a very deep line edit. This involved very slowly going through everything post-cut, as well as back to the prose in each phrase and sentence. This wasn't as conceptually difficult as the previous hack-and-slash revision pass, but was much harder work, because of the intense attention to detail. That got me down to 160,700.

Tonight and tomorrow I'll be working on the fix-it notes scattered through the manuscript from the previous three passes, as well as writing the two new scenes necessitated by the large-scale cuts — continuity bridges to account for deleted action which advanced the plot. My (quite reasonable) goal is to have it in to casacorona by tomorrow night. I expect to be somewhere around 162,500, with the newly inserted material.

By the beginning of May, I'll get change notes back from casacorona, as well as my various first readers. That will generate two more revision passes. One to deal with the change notes themselves (however intensive that may be), and one for yet another very deep line edit to finalize the manuscript. The book will go back in for formal acceptance before the end of May.

After that, I'll see it on copy edit (maybe fall, 2009), hardback galleys (maybe late fall, 2009) and mass market paperback galleys (maybe fall, 2010).

So, counting the rough draft, before this book is done I will have worked through it nine times.

And people wonder why I generally don't read my own work in final published form...

Originally published at jlake.com.

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The Ferrett
User: theferrett
Date: 2009-03-19 12:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Just out of curiosity, what's your average number of revisions on short stories? I used to be a "first draft, light second cut" kinda guy, but Clarion showed me the need for serious revision/tweaking. The gamut ranged from Neil, who seemed to be 90% there on his first draft, to Geoff who often revised twenty or thirty times for everything, and so I'm always wondering where the mean is for professionals.

(Not that a mean indicates anything other than "This is an average of wildly varying customized work methods," but still. I wonder.)
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-03-20 10:25 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm still sometimes a "first draft, light second cut" writer. I am often 90% there on first draft. The trick for me has been to learn to recognize when I am *not*.
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cathschaffstump: drollerie
User: cathschaffstump
Date: 2009-03-19 13:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
This is soooo like writing a thesis...

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User: martyn44
Date: 2009-03-19 13:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
On the other hand, you can leap to your feet and declaim it, like Mr Dickens . . .

Nine times feels like par for the course to me. Revise until right.
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User: tillyjane
Date: 2009-03-19 15:05 (UTC)
Subject: ms
Look outside, your first readers are standing in line out in the cold.
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Danny Adams
User: madwriter
Date: 2009-03-19 20:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm a little amazed at how much my brain mercifully forgets about the editing process after a particular story is published.

I went through The City Beyond Play about six times over the course of two months after the first draft was finished. And yet when I picked up the published book for the first time--two years after the agent accepted it--there were huge chunks I'd forgotten about.

I assume this is a blessing, so that you can do repeated edits like this but not clutter up your brain and next book with them.
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