Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Revision House of Cards

If you've ever drafted a novel, you know that when you deliver it to your CPs' inboxes, it's like a card house - painstakingly planned, fretted over, each piece fitting into place perfectly. Stable, but intricate.

But what my CPs can see, that I can't possibly see, is that my novel isn't a house of cards. It's more like this:


This old farmhouse has a pretty solid foundation, and has the potential to be awesome if we tweaked a little here, cleared all the brush around it, replace the kitchen, add some additions, and build a sweet driveway next to it.

But before I can do all that to it, my CPs have to make some suggestions for change that pretty much amount to this:

Not gonna work for the house of cards. 

But deep down I still see that novel as a house of cards. She's my baby, remember? I agonized over putting every piece of her into place. I saw her being built, but my CPs only saw her finished, with parts of her starting to look not-so-good.

So I try to make the changes my CPs suggest without the wrecking ball.

You can guess what happens. I usually end up with something like this:

I changed one little thing, moved around one little piece. I can pretend the whole thing's going to stand on its own, but inevitably the next round of CPs notice it for what it is: a wibbly-wobbly (but not timey-wimey, that's Jamie's book) proto-mess that won't last for long  or maybe just doesn't make any sense as-is.

We all know it. They know it, and sometimes they try to pretend it's okay, but most of the time, they keep telling me my house is about ready to fall. Yeah, it hurts to hear it, because just look at that card house up there! It's MOSTLY fine. Who's going to notice?

Well, they tell me, everyone will. When it falls. Or worst, only I will when it doesn't sell.

Well, crud.

So, that's where I am now.

It's hard, but I'm resolving to (try to)  follow my CPs advice with the wrecking ball instead of just by moving cards around.  I asked these people to read because I trust and respect every one of their opinions. FULLY.

Even when it's scary. Especially when it's scary.

And so, as my fingers hover over the "delete" button or the keyboard to write even more new stuff,  I remember that those ladies saw a strong foundation, and some beautiful elements, and knew that even with a wrecking ball, the whole thing would turn out okay.

No. It would turn out way, way better.

(That's what Elias's house looks like, by the way. Movie room's down the hall on the left.)


  1. it'll ONLY turn out better because you're the one who's fingers are at the keyboard. I trust that you'll make the changes, the adds, the snip-snips in the right places and the perfect ways because you're so good at what you do :) the only reason we can be honest is because we trust YOU.

  2. First off, the pictures on this post had me cracking up. Perfect!

    Revising can be one of the hardest things to do, and taking advice equally so, however much you may trust the person giving it. I've found that if I take a few days away from the critique and then come back to it, I'm more open to getting out the wrecking ball than I am initially!

  3. Ah--it is so hard. For me the hardest part is when I get loads of thoughtful advice back and I know that changes are needed, but I have no idea how to go about them.

    Just hang in there--having a strong foundation is way over half the battle.

  4. @Heidi Windmiller

    Thanks. <3 I think that one big obstacle might be that I'm simply not that experienced with revisions yet. I kind of have to let myself get some distance to let all the suggestions gel together into something that makes sense for me and the story.

    Doesn't hurt to have such a killer team. :)

  5. @Leigh Ann

    I'm not sure that feeling ever goes away--at least it hasn't for me--I still feel like I'm not sure how to go about revisions most of the time. It is so clear when I read someone else's creation, but with my own--I always have that lost, should I do this or that questioning. And it all feels so BIG--like there is so much to do and change and...ugh...I'm probably not making you feel any better about it. I'm just facing the gaping holes in my own WiP right now, and it is getting me down and making me realize how much I suck. So the best I can say about all of it is that you aren't alone.

  6. @Heidi Windmiller

    You're right. It feels HUGE. I usually ask my crit partners whether they're suggesting epic changes, because it FEELS that way when you first read it, and they always assure me that, no, it's totally doable. (Sound familiar @Jess?) So that really helps. A lot of times what CPs are asking for is really a few extra sentences here and there, or a different adverb to show a different emotion or something. But it feels like such a big change because we put every thing in there for a very specific reason.

    Anyway. Thank you for saying that. I know you can tackle anything you set your mind to, if only from your crit, because you so clearly have a head for this stuff.

    And I do know that if we all keep working our butts off, we're going to make it some day, revisions be damned.

  7. I know exactly how you feel. I think I have a tendency to not commit fully to revisions; I tweak things here or there but don't always want to put in the time it takes to truly revise something. I'm hoping I've gotten better with this novel, since I finished it in August and I'm still revising. I really, really, really want this to be my last round of revisions, but that will totally depend on my CP's comments. Fingers crossed!!

  8. I've had advice I've completely disagreed with, then I've had advice that picked up on a concern I was trying to ignore ^^;

    If it's scary, it's probably worth doing :)

    Good luck with your revisions!

  9. Ooh, Elias's house is gorgeous!

    And oh gosh, this is why I'm afraid to critique sometimes. I don't want to smash your house to bits in the wrong way! Eep!

    @Miss Cole--I know exactly what you mean about advice on a concern I was trying to ignore! That's the worst, because then you realize other people notice it, too, so then you HAVE to change it. :)

  10. @Mara - Yes, that's EXACTLY it. I want to believe they're little, and often I don't follow the ripples out sufficiently. Like I've done here. Which is why I've added a third crit round. #headdesk

    @Miss Cole - I've been there too. I'm a bit worried about somethign I'm *still* waiting for people to pick up on....

    @Maggie - No fear. Love you no matter what. Probably more if you pull out the wrecking ball. And you always answer my weeping emails so patiently anyway.....

  11. This is SO TRUE. When you get edit notes, you're like "Oh crap. That's 350 pages of 'fixes' I need to do." I love the analogy to a house of cards.


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