The Rigors of Revision

Over the past month or so, I have revised my first novel Whatever House for the umpteenth time. Seriously, I’ve lost count. I had put it away nearly a year ago, having given up on the agent search (Who has time? Who wants to deal with the rejections?) to move on to other—I thought, I hoped—better work.

Back in the spring, my husband and I were at Hambidge (a wonderful artists’ retreat center in the mountains of north Georgia; if you don’t know about it, check it out) for a couple of weeks. One night after dinner with the other artists in residence, he called me out: “You talk about writing the second book and having ‘one in the drawer.’ Wouldn’t it feel a whole lot better to say that the first book is ‘out there’ instead?” He was right, of course. That first novel, like a Cinderella stepchild, was languishing, wanting attention.

So I got back to work on it. I cut some of my “beauties,” the words and paragraphs, even whole scenes sometimes, that it’s hardest to let go of, especially the metaphors that seemed brilliant when I first wrote them but make me cringe now.  I added: details, narrative, dialogue, scenes. I increased the emotional stakes for the main character. I tried to make the opening “sing” to draw the reader in. My husband read it. Again. For the umpteenth time. A writer-friend I met at Writers in Paradise is also reading it. We’re reading for each other, and that’s a very good thing. Other minds, other sets of eyes, are essential to this process. No holds barred. Tell it like it is. (I’m venting  my cliches here!)

Whatever House is now a svelte 91,000 words. It was a whopping 114,000 when I began this revision. We won’t talk about how long the original draft was. That’s a LOT of stuff on the cutting room floor. But the book is tighter and richer, the main character is stronger, and maybe, just maybe, it’s more appealing to readers.

Whatever happens, I learned much in the process. Thank you, my kind and diligent critique buddies. I owe you. Big time.

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