I'm in a slump after last night's election results and am still waiting for some more pictures from the release party to come in, so I thought I'd post a less celebratory, more musing piece about revision.
One of the most frequent questions I get is "How long did it take you to write Nightshade?"
Seems like an easy question, right? It's actually pretty complicated. You don't just write a book. The process of going from idea to finished book is much more like baking bread (something else I love to do during the cold Minnesota winters).
The first draft is throwing together ingredients and mixing up a fabulous dough. Then you have to let the dough rest and rise. In writing terms, this is akin to taking a break from your first draft before you begin to revise. Trying to go in for revision right away will ruin the process - you need to take a little space from your work.
After the break, you need to go back in ruthlessly. I find bread-baking a great stress reliever because of this step: you get to punch down the dough! That's right - after letting it rise you smash your first into and start all over again. You have to approach your manuscript with the same determination. It's not ready yet, you're still in the middle of the process. Writers often speak of "killing their darlings," and it's accurate to view revision as a brutal process. It's hard to let go of the words and scenes you put all that labor into. But like with the bread, you also need to know that it's a lot of excess air that you need to get out of there.
Then it's time to shape the loaf. Instead of just punching out the unnecessary bits, it's time to refine and get the manuscript to where you want it. Then you let the loaf rise again - and this time, if you've done your work, it's rising into the shape you want it to be.
I'm at this stage with Bloodrose - in the final revisions. Woo hoo!
From there it's onto to baking getting all the finishing touches in. (For me this is copy edits - meaning the manuscript is pretty much out of my hands and the work has gone to the oven. Hi copy editors, I hope it's okay that I just compared you to my oven).
Baking a great loaf of bread takes time and a lot of steps. As much as I can drill through a first draft, that's only the beginning. Time and refining get the novel where it needs to be.