I will be the first to admit that I’m not a very brave person. I usually hate taking risks and stepping out of my comfort zone. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what you have to do when you’re revising a novel. And over the past couple of weeks, I had to get mighty brave when my editor pointed out some things that weren’t working in the final Dirt Diary book.
I realized she was totally right, but in order to fix the problem, I would essentially have to start over. Oh my goldfish–as my character Rachel would say–I was supposed to restart a book when it was due in 2.5 weeks??
After a day or two of total panic, I realized I had no choice. I couldn’t label the book as “good enough” and let it go. I had to get brave and dive in.
So I opened a new document and went through the old version, cutting and pasting the scenes that worked and omitting the ones that didn’t. When I was done, the book was about half its original length and it didn’t have a climax. Then I started to brainstorm and rewrite, and brainstorm and rewrite some more.
A week later, I was stuck halfway through the manuscript, feeling like it still wasn’t working. When I went down to NYC for Book Expo America, the revision was so much on my mind that I actually sat in a corner of the expo and started a list: “What makes this book fun?”
That’s when I had a breakthrough. I wasn’t having enough fun with the book! And I realized that I was focusing too much on minor characters and adult problems rather than the main character’s struggles and her tween concerns. In order to make all of that work, I had to start over–again.
Luckily, I had a chance to sit down with my editor for a few minutes at BEA and talk out the new direction I was thinking. She reassured me that I was on the right track and encouraged me to keep going with it.
Then the real work began. Let me tell you. It was terrifying to know I had a deadline coming up and no manuscript to show for it. But if I wanted to make the book the best that I could, I had to be brave.
Finally, after a week of struggling, a day came when revising actually felt doable. That’s how I knew that I was finally going in the right direction. Suddenly, I started making connections in the manuscript that I hadn’t noticed before…and I was having a little fun with it!
Fast forward to yesterday morning when I sent the manuscript off to my editor and breathed a huge sigh of relief. The book I sent her is completely different from what she read a few weeks ago. Heck, it’s a completely different book from the one it was a week ago. Last night, my editor emailed me and said she absolutely loved what I’d done. I can’t tell you how good that made me feel.
As insane and stressful as the process has been, I’m glad I forced myself to be brave. Revision isn’t about making something just okay. It’s about pushing yourself until the story is better than the one you thought you were capable of writing.