How much? How much is too much?
Everybody has their own style. I'm all cool with that. But I do think there is a tendency, especially with new writers, to revise the living fuck out of their books. I don't mean don't revise, but I mean, don't revise 20 or 30 times. You'll hear them say they're not satisfied. (Welcome to making art: You Will Never Be Satisfied.) You'll hear them say they're still learning. (we're ALL still learning!) What you don't hear them say is that their skeeeered as poop. Which, I think, is why people spend 8 years writing one book.**
Unless it's WAR AND PEACE. And books that long aren't selling, yeah? *
I was big into revision, but I've done a few learning gigs over the past couple of years that's made me change my tune.
1. I figured out I don't really like revision. That shit is complicated and confusing! Okay, amendment. I like revision probably the first two times I go through a book. After, not so much. (like the crits I'm going through now for SILVER SCAR. Blechy boring)
2. I wrote LOST PRINCE, revised it once, hoped and prayed I'd get the same editor I'd had for QUENCHED (I did) and went through it 3 more times with him. The last time was pretty useless. I wasn't reading anymore. I was going through the motions.
3. I started REVISING FICTION by Kirt Hickman, and attended his seminar. He's got a system. It's organized, scene by scene. I think a lot of writers revise over and over because they aren't organized. They just reread and reread and when something strikes their fancy, or doesn't, they change it. Never mind that they're just changing something back from how they changed it three times ago.
4. Too many betas get confusing. I have a group of four I use regularly and we all know each other so well that it's fairly efficient for me to use their crits. Right now I haven't seen some of them for weeks, so even my own notes don't make much sense. I'm going through each one per chapter. Four courses through each chapter. I only did two chapters today and there wasn't even that much to fix. Sigh.
5. The editor gets last say, cuz his company bought the book. (or maybe s/he's some lug you paid, so you might want to pay attention.) My editor catches mistakes, inconsistencies, and confusions. And he sometimes goes against what readers have said. Go figure. Guess who wins?
6. I'm learning, for me at least, that balls-to-the-wall drafting is not my style. (for some reason I always think of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap when I think of people writing fast, like during NaNoWriMo. That song rolls through my head constantly in November.) I do rolling revisions, reading the previous day's work and then moving on with writing. I've always naturally done this. It works for me. By the time I get to the end of draft one, a lot of it is fairly clean.
How do you revise? How much? Do you ever go fuck it and turn the damn thing in anyway?
* You can now just put your big fat hairy 250K word fantasy novel that would make two or three regular books into one file and sell it on Kindle for 99c. If you like giving your work away, that is...
** SENTINEL: ARCHIVE OF FIRE took me about 8 years to write. I just wrote the sequel in 5 months. And I took about a month off.