When It Stops Being Revision


Recently, AJ Hartley talked about the Invasive Revision. This is where he realized that the book had problems and he needed to take a chainsaw to it. This post resonated with me, because I just turned in the ‘revision’ for Blood Winter. That’s in quotes because at least 55-60% of the words were new. Brand new chapters, cutting out wholesale chunks, teasing out the bits that don’t fit any more, shoring up new stuff, characterization and action and so on.

But if more than half the book is new, is it a revision?

I’ll let you decide. Here’s the funny part. My editor didn’t ask for this level of revision. He pointed out some flaws. I realized he was right. He suggest some fixes, some of which I incorporated. But I had known for a long time that there was one thing I’d done in terms of point of view and introducing a character that didn’t work. But I didn’t know how to fix it. So I kept going, hoping a solution would occur. This came back to haunt me. But this time, with distance, with my editorial notes and those of my agent, I was able to come up with a fix. One that required a lot of new words.

The book is better. I also, sadly, lost some scenes that I really really like. Here’s one. Go ahead. Read it. Done? Okay. So what I like about it is obviously the humor, characterization, character interaction, and none of it fits into the book really. And in the end, that’s how you have to decide what stays and what goes. Does it make the book better? If it doesn’t, even if it doesn’t harm it, that’s not good enough. So you have to cut it.

I cut a lot of other scenes I really liked. And some dialog and interactions I loved. It will go into a file and I may or may not look at them again. I may post a few of them up on my blog for entertainment purposes, but in the end I had to be merciless.

People refer to their books sometimes as their babies. I don’t. If I thought of them that way, I couldn’t hack them up and patch them up as needed.

And now, on a personal note: Today is my birthday. If you want to give me a great present, tell your friends about my books. Read them if you haven’t. Spread the word. Have a great day everyone!


16 comments to When It Stops Being Revision

    As a present, I’ll call my local indie and order your last book. (I was bad. I don’t have it yet.)

    I’ve been where you were at the start of this *revision*, with the revision of BloodRing. Horrible, awful, totally redone with *huge* sections (4,000 words) cut and stuck into a later book. But it was better. Much much better.

  • Happy birthday, Di! Hope it’s a great one. And yes, I’ve been there, too, with a book that hasn’t yet been published but is far closer now than it’s ever been. I’ve rewritten it a couple of times, torn it apart and put it back together, cut huge chunks out of it and written new scenes that work better. Painful, but necessary. And ultimately effective. But no, it’s never easy.

  • Happy birthday, Diana!

    I *think* I’ve already been there, because my current WIP is the result of taking a single standalone, gutting it, and splitting it into three manageable pieces. I had to cut a character from Book 1, but she’s going to be useful later on. Book 2 will be *nothing* like it was originally, and neither will Book 3. Plus I’m doing *more* revisions on Book 1 to make it the best it can be.

    I’ve been calling it all “revisions”, but there does come a point when they become “rewrites”. Maybe it’s all about mindset? When I started out gutting the monotome, I appoached it as rewrites, and it was so much easier to make the changes that needed to be made. Last night I realized that I need to reframe my approach, and call it “rewrites” again. Even if they’re not as extensive as before.

  • Happy birthday! Have to ask: since your editor wasn’t expecting this extensive a revision, was he/she happy with the result or is the jury stil out?

  • Gypsyharper

    Happy Birthday! Seems like a good day to move Shadow City to the top of my reading pile. 🙂

  • Thanks everyone for the birthday wishes! Sadly the day started with seriously sick girlie. Ah well. That’s the way the ball bounces.

    Faith: I’m really hoping this is better. No, I know it it. I’m just afraid it’s not as polished as I’d like.

    David: that’s about it in a nutshell.

    Laura: rewrite/revision. But it feels like brand new bookery. Like too much first draft. Sigh.

    AJ: I haven’t heard yet. And I’m a little panicked about it actually.

    Gypsyharper: It does seem like a great day to move it up. I totally agree!

  • “People refer to their books sometimes as their babies. I don’t. If I thought of them that way, I couldn’t hack them up and patch them up as needed.”

    Perhaps it would help if you thought about them as your teenagers?

  • sagablessed

    Happy birthday, young lady. May the next year be as auspicious as your being born on the Solstice.
    Now, I agree with Lahti: think of your WIPs as teenagers, like the ones in highschool dramas, and chop-chop-chop. Then be Frankenstein and cry “IT’S ALIVE!!”

  • sagablessed

    *whispers* (the Gene Wilder Frankenstein)

  • Razziecat

    Happy Birthday! Hope it’s a good one! 🙂

    For super-revisions, yes, oh yes….finding this out now, I am. It’s sad to cut out scenes that I like, that I enjoyed writing, but if I’m honest with myself, they aren’t necessarily as good as they could be, and they don’t fit in with what I now know I have to do, so…out they go. Or into my “extra words” file, actually.

  • Happy Birthday, Di.

    I don’t think of my stories as my babies. Although I’d be hard pressed to say which of my ‘babies’ has undergone more surgery. I think right now my blood ‘n’ bones son wins – more than a dozen major surgeries, parts removed, other parts added…


  • Wolf: Mine aren’t yet teens. But I’ve got a feeling that dismemberment will be one of those things I want to commit. Frequently.

    Sagablessed: I could chop them up and sew them back a thousand times! I could leave parts out. I could . .. Oh, wait. You’re not talking about my actual children are you? 😀

    Razziecat: It’s terribly sad. I am now trying to figure out if I could use them in some little quick flash stories.

    Lyn: Oh that just sucks on your son. That’s usually me in my family–the parts removed bit.

  • Di – my son is a story unto himself. Now, if I could just figure out how to add a magical element, that’d be great. All the editing is done (I hope)! 😉

  • So…you’re saying…I really can’t ignore that inner-editor thorn in my side? It’s not true that I’m just imagining that certain stuff doesn’t fit? That in fact the whole thing is too long? That the action scenes need to be moved up from the last third of the book? That slaving for weeks over scenes and plot threads does not guarantee them a spot in the manuscript?

    Have you seen the Bosch IXO Vino Cordless Lithium-Ion Screwdriver with Limited Edition Corkscrew Attachment at Amazon? It gets those pesky wine bottle corks out in no time flat.

    Those two paragraphs *are* related.

  • This reminds me of a thought experiment:
    Imagine a ship leaves port made entirely of red material. It has red deck planks, red sails, red rope and so on. During its circumnavigation of the globe it pulls in to other ports to repair damage. Each time it replaces the damaged item with a blue one so that by the time it has returned to its home port it is made entirely of blue items. Is it the same ship that left or a new blue one? At what point did it stop being the original red ship and start being a new blue one?

    Thus it is with my book. I pulled four chapters, wrote five entirely new ones and shifted the focus of the plot. Short of changing the character names and a couple of key details it is a new book… or is it?