So revision is on my mind this week. Mainly because I’m less than 24 hours away from sending my revisions back to Dutton. Between the publisher’s post-it’s, my attached yellow sheets re-writing various paragraphs, and multiple colors of penciled edits throughout, I pity the poor copywriter who gets this packet.
I once read on Tess Gerritsen’s site that her copyeditors are amazed with how cleanly she writes. I fear my copyeditors are more like, “It’s another Susan Colebank manuscript? Oh, God. Give her to the new kid.” Why? Because these are the things I just seem to miss until the very last minute that make for some messy, messy edits:
1) Timeless timelines. I try and try to keep the days straight (I even based this last story around Thanksgiving and Christmas to help me out!), but I still get caught with notes like “You say two days later–two days after Thanksgiving is Saturday, not Monday. There’d be no school.” D’oh! Maybe this is WHY I haven’t seen a lot of holidays used in YA books written by writers a lot smarter than I.
2) Lost-at-sea motivations. Reggie has one motivation in the book at first, which drifts off as other things/subplots mess with her, and that motivation sort of flails around and gets pulled under by a Great White. I had to go back and make certain that motivation was highlighted again and again as I revised. Or, as Laurie Halse Anderson wrote on her blog: I tinkered … a lot while revising, trying to find the right places to weave that into the background, and the best times to bring it forth a little louder in the story. Of course, she said she did this BEFORE it went to her publisher. And this is why she’s Laurie Halse Anderson.
3) “This read a lot better six months ago.” Seriously. I thought the manuscript–after about 15 readers–was good to go. I loved it. Now fast forward three weeks ago when I got revisions.
“What’s that smell? It’s like old man farts crossed with toe sweat.”
I open my Fed Ex envelope from Dutton.
“You can’t be what stinks.”
I take a longer whiff. Gag.
“Oh my God. It is you.”
4) When did Reggie start talking like Sarah? Funny how you can get out of your character’s head long enough to make them start talking like their best friend. I’ve heard about best friends adopting the same slang (the clique mentality thing), but in fiction, that ain’t going to fly. Especially if you want to run some tagless dialogue, like so:
“Like, I was so wanting to be there.”
5) There’s my motif. No, THERE’s my motif. Crap, maybe that back there was my motif. I started out with one motif in the book, but then it segued into something else. And then, as I revised, thinking which one I wanted to part with, I realized I needed both for different reasons. And then I realized, “No wonder I bit my husband’s head off this weekend. I think I’m about to have an aneurysm.”
And, suddenly, I understand why Edgar Allen Poe had his opium and Stephen King had his cocaine during the 80s.