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Jan 25, 2012

The Stages of Revision (or, Turning your Manuscript into a Monkey)

1. DENIAL – I think this stage was the longest with my first novel. I didn’t want to believe it needed that much work. I took it as an affront that scene deletions were suggested, that so many questions were asked. THEY JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND ME!!!

2. FEAR – Looking at all the work you need to do is daunting… a “My stomach is trying to escape through the soles of my feet” kind of feeling. So you move from not believing it could need the amount of work your betas tell you it does, to looking toward the peak of Mt. Manuscriptus and realizing you left your oxygen tank at home…

3. ACCEPTANCE – This stage has shown up more quickly with each revision I’ve had to do, it’s the point at which you realize one way or another, you have to get moving. You may not take all of the suggestions given, but you’ll probably see the light for most of them at this point.

4. LET’S DO THIS – After you’ve accepted the fact that you need to pull up your sleeves and dredge this ms out of the mud, you’re on the rush of getting things started and you’ve got the idea in your head that you can plow through these revisions no problem, you’re going to make these revisions into a monkey with a fez and a pair of cymbals and it will dance, DANCE!!!! (This is usually paired with a maniacal laugh – and deservedly so)

5. OMG I CAN’T DO THIS – And then it hits you, a resurgence of the gut wrenching fear from stage two. Suddenly that little voice in the back of your head has killed your monkey – via doubt poisoning – and you start to wonder if you aren’t making it all worse. You start to dwell on the changes, and you go back a page, reworking, two pages, you start to get sucked into a re-edit that will pull you under. You make copious notes telling yourself to go back for this and make sure that…

6. IT’S NOT SO BAD, REALLY – You wake up the next morning, pages stuck to your cheek from drool and you realize you were freaking out. Even if somethings are still unpolished, this is only one round of many go throughs. You pick yourself up, get back to the point of your freak out and push on, diligently.

7. I’M NEVER GOING TO GET THROUGH THIS – at this stage, you’re about half way through, but the revisions have lost both the fresh “I’mma make you my monkey” feel as well as the “OMG, NOVEL ARMAGEDDON! NOTHING IS WORKING” feel that pulled you through the first half. Now you’re trudging through, page by page, each turn seems to be spaced out further and further until you feel almost as though you’re going backward. (Now is a good time to take a break, btw – because this stage can last a LONG time if you let it.) This stage feels like running through knee deep snow, you’re exerting twice the effort to get 1/3 as far.

8. AHHH! THE END IS IN SIGHT – once you break through the drudgery of stage 8, (about 7/8th through the revision) you’ll get a surge of energy back, you can see the light at the end of that tunnel, you’re putting the fez back on your monkey and once again he will DANCE!!!

9. HOLY CRAP, I’M DONE? – You get to the end and Doubt number 2 sets in. This time, it’s a doubt that you caught everything…. maybe your monkey has hidden something under that snazzy vest you got for him. And maybe you didn’t catch it all. But that’s okay. Now’s not the time to dwell on that. Now is the time to set it aside, work on something else and then read it again in about a month, when it’s not so fresh in your mind.

(Then you send it off again and probably repeat)

3 comments:

  1. You captured this perfectly, Amy. Seriously. I've so been there, and this is exactly what it looks like.

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  2. Okay, the monkey totally scares me. Those things always have. They have these "possessed eyes" that kind of freak me out.

    I'm in stage 5 with my WIP. Hopefully, I'll get beyond it soon.

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