Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How I Revise

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.


  1. Loved this analogy, and I could really feel your passion for the revision process (ha!) I'm gonna link to this on my blog tomorrow. Thank you for sharing!

  2. After yesterday, I could stand to punch some dough myself.
    Actually, I am. Since I am tackling a rewrite. Glad to hear you're at the final stage with Bloodrose. Right now, though, I'm salivating for Wolfsbane.

  3. LOL I love your analogy! I can't imagine how hard it is going through this process, but we're all cheering you on. We LOVE Nightshade, can't wait for Wolfsbane and we're dying for Bloodrose!!!

  4. Congratulations! We love Nightshade at our house and in my review I said that it was the best debut novel of the year. Thanks for creating such an amazing world for us to enjoy. Can't wait to read Calla, Shay and Ren's next adventure.

    You can read my review here:

  5. That's a great analogy. We all have our own time it takes to get our novels done. Some people who don't write sometimes don't understand why it's taking me so long to get it done.

  6. Wow, you put a whole new spin on "kill your darlings" with this analogy! I think everyone doing NaNo right now is wondering how we are going to beat our stories into shape after this writing madness ;) So happy you have made it this far in your series and can't wait for the second book! Thanks for the great post on the revisions process.