Saturday, October 3, 2009

Envision Dread-Free Revisions

Revision.

How do you feel when you hear that word? Stomach feel like someone attacked it with a stapler?

Does the aspect of revising cause anxiety, or excitement?

Hold that thought. Errr…feeling.

Next question, what’s the first thing you envision when you hear revision? Does something in your manuscript come to mind? A particular paragraph that’s been acting like a stubborn mule because the distance between the right word and the almost right word seems miles away?

Today I hope to dissolve some terror regarding revisions.

Revisions can be a good thing. Although painful at the time, the effort is worth it because of the betterment of our stories.

In order to survive this industry, we have to be willing to hear hard things about our writing. We rarely see errors in our own work.

Most every book on the shelf is a collaborative effort. Teamwork between authors and editors.

Having both the ability and the willingness to revise is an absolute must if you want to be a career writer.

Before I sold to Steeple Hill, I received detailed revision notes from the editors. They sent this after asking my agent if I would be willing to majorly revise the work. I’d waited seven long years for this! Of course I was willing. In fact, I assured them I’d paint that ms blue and run it to the moon and back if I thought that would better my chances of selling.

Guess what? I passed their first test. Editors NEED to know you will be someone they can work with. They need assurance you are not so married to your words that you can’t or won’t divorce yourself from them if need be.

Sales matter. Bottom line. Editors seek authors they can work with. That’s as important as the fact that you can throw down a heck of a stellar story and do it with excellence by deadline.

The fact that I revised didn’t guarantee a sale, but fortunately for me it paid off. My revisions were so major; it meant changing the story from romantic suspense to romance.

That industry professionals saw my strengths and weaknesses and chose to grow my strengths meant a great deal. After the sale, there were more revisions before the book was shelf-ready.

Then came line and copy edits and galleys--the final proofreading before the book went to print. I won’t lie to you. Some of those revisions were gut-wrenching. But in the end, I felt much more secure and confident with that book hitting public bookshelves after having their editorial input and instituting those changes.

Enter the reader letters. It’s a choice to trust your editors. I’m so glad I did. I get countless letters from readers who thank me for adding aspects to the stories. Much of the time those heart-touching, life-changing portions are things my editors encouraged me to play up or draw out to be more prevalent in the book.

That debut book (A Soldier’s Promise) received a Top Pick from RT. Not sure it would have had I not trusted my editors and ran with their revisions. They suggested I have the hero and heroine separated longer and communicate electronically while he was deployed on an overseas mission. Honestly, my first reaction to that revision request was that the book would be boring. Heroines and heroes are supposed to be together much of the time in the book, right?

After the book released, I received tons of tear-evoking letters from deployed servicemen and women, telling me that my book and particularly that aspect of them communicating electronically, instilled hope for their own relationships. Letter after letter thanking me because it helped them believe that relationships can be maintained with one or both spouses deployed. I had my editors to thank for that. I shudder to think of the hope that wouldn’t have been shared had I fought my editors on that point.

This happens with every book. There was a scene in my recent book, Soldier Daddy (in stores now!) that my editors asked me to play out as if on-stage instead of reference. I felt it detracted from the romance so I hadn’t added it beforehand. I’m so glad they suggested that because readers have been profoundly touched and in many cases moved to tears by that particular scene. I won’t give too much away other than to say “Macy.” Once you read the book, you’ll understand. All that to reiterate that some of the very points I was uncertain about, yet chose to revise according to my editors’ suggestions, readers end up connecting to the most.

My advice? Roll up your sleeves and get ready to revise. Be open to change your story for the sake of not only sales, but for the many readers who will be touched by your editors’ insights and experience.

Thanks for spending time with me today. I’d love feedback on your take on revisions. Talk away!

Cheryl
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Born Valentine’s Day on a naval base, Cheryl Wyatt writes military romance. Her Steeple Hill debuts earned RT Top Picks plus #1 and #4 on eHarlequin's Top 10 Most-Blogged-About-Books, lists including NYT Bestsellers.
Cheryl Wyatt www.cherylwyatt.com
The Seekers www.seekerville.blogspot.com
Soldier Daddy-IN STORES Oct 1

39 comments:

Silver James said...

Good morning, Cheryl. Thanks for dropping by the Prairie today. Ahhhh, revisions. I have my love/hate relationship with them. My major foible as a writer is POV. As a reader, I want to know what every character is thinking and feeling. As a writer, I "over-share" for the same reason. With each subsequent book, I do get better. I've only been told once that a MS needed major work. After I railed and yelled, cried a few tears, and stuck it on the back burner, I started to turn over ways to fix it. I'm still working on that one--no deadline or offer to look again so it was low priority compared to the "active" projects.

While editors want to "wring" the best book they can from you, as a writer, you also need to have enough faith in your story to know when to stand your ground. Revision is an organic process filled with give and take, and an editor who knows you will work hard with her/him will often give a writer the extra boost to make that sale.

Great article! (And now back to work. :D )

Anita Mae Draper said...

Good morning, Cheryl. I'm so excited to have you visit us here at Prairie Chicks. I've loved and laughed through all 4 of your first books. (Soldier Daddy should be in the mail. Yay!)

Excellent post. I don't like revisions. I guess once I get started I become re-enthused with the project but just thinking of having to redo what I did makes me procrastinate.

I have rec'd revisions from an editor and I had to admit each suggestion made the story stronger.

I can't say how much I appreciated the personal encouragement you gave me in Denver. Thank you.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Silver...LOVE your name. That's COOL! Thanks for stopping by.

Cheryl

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Anita,

It was great to see you in Denver! I'm so excited about how your writing has taken off. Can't wait to celebrate your first sale with you!

Thanks for having me here. Love the blog.

Cheryl

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Cheryl! Timely post for me since I should get my revision letter next week. And then the work really begins!

Tina M. Russo said...

Sigh. I needed that. Thanks Cheryl.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Cara, I'm so excited for you!

Tina, LOL! Trust me, I have to take my own advice.

Thank you both for dropping by!

Cheryl

Karyn Good said...

Hi Cheryl and thanks so much for coming to visit today and talking about the revision process. Great advice on approaching change with an open mind and keeping an eye on the ultimate goal. Great post!

Vince said...

Hi Cheryl:

I didn’t know it took seven years to publish your first book. That’s very encouraging because, at the rate you are going, you are still going to average at least one book a year over your career – even including those seven years!

I wrote advertising for decades and had daily revisions often from people who didn’t have a clue about what they were talking about. I’m quite prepared for revisions from an editor who actually knows what she is talking about.

When I became an editor, the hardest thing I had to learn was not to rewrite copy the way I would have written it. There are many ways to write powerful copy. I just thought my way was always best.

I’ve written nonfiction that required many revisions not because there was anything wrong with the copy but because the editor wanted to make my writing consistent with the publisher’s other books.

Sometimes I think an editor may not be making your story better in an artistic sense but rather making it more saleable and more like the stories the publisher’s readers prefer. That’s fine with me. I like the idea of making my book more saleable.

BTW, do you have a PJ Christmas story in your pen?

Vince

Janet Dean said...

Cheryl, excellent points about revisions. My editors' suggestions have always strengthened my books.

Janet

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Hi Karyn!

Great thoughts. Thank you!
I appreciate you stopping by to read my post and adding your thoughts.

Cheryl

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Vince! Long time no see.

Always great to hear wisdom from you.

I never thought of it like that, but you're right about the seven book thing. Wow. Cool!

Thanks for coming by,

Cheryl

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Vince, I hadn't thought about a Christmas PJ book...but I LOVE the idea.

Now you have my creative mind going....

I'm hearing sleigh bells and seeing dessert camouflage-clad soldiers navigating the horse-drawn contraption down the streets of Refuge as they dole out free toys to children....

I just might add that to Brock's proposal! It *could* be a Christmas story. I've never written one.

Cheryl

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Janet, I LOVE your books. Love, love, love 'em!

Your characters are so very memorable. They stay in my mind for years. And your grasp on history and how you weave it seamlessly into your stories is awesome.

Hugs
Cheryl

Helena said...

I enjoy revising, or as some people call it, self-editing. I find it a very creative part of the process because it refines, rearranges words and ideas for greater impact, etc. etc. All those things that make writing stronger.

I didn't take too kindly to other people's suggestions in the beginning. However, now I realise that if someone has spotted a weak area (whether I use their specific solution/alternative or not) it always means that something needs fixing, so I'd better find out what is wrong. If good suggestions are made, I use them in some way that improves the story. I think that's just the growth process a writer needs to go through.

I haven't had the experience of working with an editor yet, just some wise critiquers and writing instructors. I'm sure I would be open to suggestions from someone who was willing to publish my work!!

Thank you for taking the time to visit on the Prairie, Cheryl.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Helena,

I laughed out loud when I read the part of your comment that said, "I didn't take too kindly to other people's suggestions in the beginning" because that's my reaction nearly EVERY time.

Then I settle down and realize they're right.

Having been a writing contest coordinator and a judge for many, many writing contests, I can attest to the fact that MOST people don't take kindly to criticism.

One good thing about working with critique partners, writing instructors and getting contest feedback is that it will prepare you for when you do work with an editor.

Thank you for coming by. I'm lovin' my time here on The Prairie (LOVE IT!).


Cheryl

Valerie Comer said...

Rewriting a book closer to romance and farther from romantic suspense is what I'm in the midst of right now. Not at an editor's request, but because of the crit group getting to The End and saying...um...Val...Where you going with this? Yeah.

However, the revised one-sheet and revised synopsis caught the eye of several major players in Denver, so I'm hopeful that the novel will garner some interest once it's done. 15K in, 45 to go.

I'd like to thank you, Cheryl, for your encouragement in Denver. And Anita, you got some photos to send me? :)

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Val, LOL! Good critique partners are so valuable.

Keep me posted on your story progress okay?

It was great seeing you in Denver. Looking forward to your first sale too!

Cheryl

Janet C. said...

Glad to have you here on The Prairies today, Cheryl. It really is a great place to hang :)

Your post is very inspiring. Boils down to 'work hard' before a sale, during a sale, after a sale. And, of course, keep an open mind (from editors, but also from crit partners - a place many of us are right now, not yet having the fortune of the first sale).

Like, Helena, I cringed at my first critique. "What? How can you not think it's perfect just the way I wrote it?" I believe that was my first lesson in Thick Skin 101. Now, I can't wait to get a critique back knowing that those suggestions will only make my story stronger.

Thanks again for visiting, Cheryl.

Project Journal said...

Hey Cheryl!
Very nice post, girl! Even though I don't officially write, I still am doing revisions for my college essays currently : / Honestly, it sucks! Lol! I'm sorry, but I am not liking this at all. I have been getting some really harsh critiscism from my english class and it is because of some circumstances that are out of my control. The essay is on my thesis project(you can check out my blog if you want to know more about the project). It's complicated!

What are you currently working on, by the way, since people have been talking about Christmas stories and such?

Talk to you soon,
Hannah!

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Janet C,

I remember when we started the Seeker group www.seekerville.blogspot.com and none of us were published.

Now only 4 of the 15 remain on Unpubbed Island and those 4 are THISCLOSE to selling.

I'll bet the Prairie Chicks will be joining the ranks of Published soon! You all seem to have a handle on what it means to work hard and improve your craft.

And this blog will be a huge asset to you all as far as marketing your work once you're all sold.

Blessings on each of you and your work!

Thanks for reading my post.

Cheryl

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Hannah!

Thank you for coming by. I can't imagine writing what you're working on. My respect and awe goes out to you for working hard.

I'm right now working on thinking of a good story for Brockton that I hope my editors will love.

I'm also plotting out stories for the series that I hope will follow the Wings of Refuge one for Steeple Hill. I think readers have gotten attached to Refuge and I'm hoping I'll be able to come up with stellar ideas and stories for the new series that I pray Steeple Hill will love and want to contract.

And of course praying my current series does well for them as far as sales.

Your support means so much!

Thank you,

Cheryl

Anita Mae Draper said...

Whoops, Val, I forgot! Thanks for the reminder! I just looked at your card the other day and something niggled but not enough... LOL

Look for an email later on, eh...

Anita Mae Draper said...

Cheryl, will your next series be about PJ's too? Or another branch of the military? Siblings? Friends? LOL On Thursday we had a discussion about series and I guess I'm still in that mode.

Or will you touch on the music side of things? I know Gail Sattler did a wonderful series about the members of a Praise Band. You'd be uniquely qualified for that, as well although I believe your tagline is military romances.

Hmm... military musicians? LOL

We appreciate the time you're taking to answer questions today, Cheryl.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Cheryl,
So nice to have you here with us on the Prairies.

A very timely post for me as I am currently revising two manuscripts. It's not easy, but so worth it. I've got amazing critique partners that have helped me out a lot, not only with my work, but in helping to keep my spirits up when the going gets tough. I've been fortunate to work with excellent editors who have helped to make my work stronger. I totally agree that being willing to revise is the "first test". Why would editors want to work with someone unwilling to do the work, or to consider another point of view?

Thank you for being here today.

Jana

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Anita,

Most of my characters are military but I think my brand will end up being "Rescue Romance" or something similar.

I feel that I'm too new an author to totally brand myself yet other than a genre generalization of "action-romance."

The series I'm plotting now and hope to turn in to SH for consideration soon features ancillary characters in Refuge. So, same setting, with the PJs in the background but characters like Officer Stallings, Paramedic Cole, Ash Petrowski and others taking lead roles as heroes and heroines.

I'll turn it in as The Heart of Refuge Series and we'll see what happens.

I hope I can write it well enough that it sells. I'm sorta sad to be ending the PJ series.

BUT, in the future I may come back to them. After all, Petrowski has two more teams in the wings...

Hugs!
Cheryl

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Jana,

Thank you for coming by. You're definitely on the right track. Thanks to you and all the Prairie Chicks for the warm welcome.

I've enjoyed my stay here on The Prairie. I sense that there is a tremendous amount of talent and drive here.

Don't give up!

Warmly,

Cheryl

Pam Hillman said...

Thanks for this post, Cheryl. I'm in self-imposed revision mode once again, and sometimes it's HARD to come up with a more powerful way to say something.

A multi-pubbed friend who's also a freelance editor, and a former editor, read the ms, and I trust her opinion explicitely, so if she says "add more emotion here", then I strive to do it.

One hair-pull at a time!

Project Journal said...

Awwww Cheryl! You are way too kind : )

That's really cool about what you're working on. I can totally understand why you'd be sad to be finishing this series though. You've worked on it for so long and hard! However, I love the idea for Paremedic Cole(I LOVE doctor stories, remember! *wink*)

Anyway, nice to talk to you again, I'm sure we'll be talking again really soon!
Hannah

Rie said...

For the next two months I'm going to completely IGNORE editing or revisions for Nano, but usually I LOVE editing. It's my favorite part of writing. I'm weird, I know.

Gwen Stewart said...

Cheryl, I'm late to the thread but I'm so grateful for your sage advice. I'm going through a complete rewrite now. I was not asked to rewrite, but the idea I had for revision was so extreme that what my agent calls a "page one rewrite" was really the only option.

However, I can tell the story is stronger already. And I've learned so much just reading the revision letter and talking it over with my most excellent crit partner and friend (waving to Anita) that I feel confident my changes are right for the story.

I always want to be teachable. I always want to be open to changes. I never want to think that my words, story, and characters cannot be changed.

Again, thank you for this great post.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Pam, thank you for dropping by! I love your stories and can't wait until the rest of the world gets to meet your characters too.

Hugs!

Cheryl

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Hannah, maybe I'll name Cole's heroine after you?

Hugs!

Cheryl

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Rie,

Definitely! If you're writing that first draft, don't stop to edit.

This advice is for later when you've completed your book and are in the self-editing stage.

Good luck on NANO!

Warmly,

Cheryl

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Gwen,

Thanks for coming by and reading the post. I'm so glad you found it useful.

Good luck in your writing!

Cheryl

Anita Mae Draper said...

Honorary Prairie Chick Cheryl, on behalf of the other Prairie Chicks, I'd like to thank you not only for blogging with us this past weekend but for stepping in at the last minute. You're a very nice guest and person to work with and so many of us needed the advice you offered.

I wish you well with Soldier Daddy as well as the rest of your writing career. Your next series sounds exciting. Thanks again and I'll see you at Seekerville. :D

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Thanks, Anita!

It was truly an honor and a delight to be here.

Hugs all!

Cheryl

connie said...

Dear Cheryl,
My youngest turns 32 today but still, I would want to 'wash his mouth out with soap' as they say, for using a dirty word like 'revision'.
Turn down free professional advice? Not in this lifetime.
Thank you for your advice. I haven't read one of your books yet but I won't be able to say that in a week's time.
connie

Project Journal said...

Cheryl!
Oh my goodness, girl! : O That would be such an honor! Wow...

By the way, thanks sooooo much for joining to follow my blog! I am so excited, I have 5 new followers : ) You know, I don't know if you remember, but you are the reason I started following Seekerville. You told me that if I wanted people to come to see my blog, I should chat onSeekerville and people will come with time. Man were you right!
Thanks so much, I'm headed over to drop by your other posts today, and you're in Seekerville tomorrow, right? See you there too!
Hannah