The speed at which one can self-publish is often mentioned as one of its biggest advantages. A writer can get a book to market via self-pub MUCH faster than via traditional publication. But fast isn’t always best. If the mantra of real estate is location, location, location then the mantra of writers should be revision, revision, revision. Both rising star and hard-working author (those two adjectives are hardly a coincidence; they go hand in hand), Jeffe Kennedy, is here to share her thoughts on drafting versus revision and why all of us should take the time to get it right. Welcome, Jeffe!
One of the best parts of being a writer, I often say, is getting to have in-depth conversations with writers I admire. At the RT Booklovers Convention in Las Vegas, I had lunch with amazing SFF author Kate Elliott. Not only is she a brilliant author of some of my favorite fantasy series, she’s been in the business for over twenty years and generously shares her accumulated wisdom.
At any rate, during lunch, as we talked about our current projects, she asked me if I love or hate revising. This is one of those litmus test questions writers often ask each other, because most of us fall into one of two camps on it. I always say I hate it. For me, revising has always given me the sense of fixing the things I got wrong the first time I wrote it. In contrast, one of my good writer friends calls revision “God’s work.” Which I find amusing because, biblically speaking, God didn’t do much revising at all. Unless you count Lilith as the first draft of woman and Eve as the revision.
Kate falls into the revision camp. She hates drafting and feels she really shines when revising. What she hates are the ups and downs of drafting, the going from exaltation to utter despondency. As we discussed the ins and outs of both phases of writing, it occurred to me that maybe I’ve changed.
Because I really don’t hate revision as much as I used to. Largely because that feeling of fixing mistakes has diminished considerably.
I wouldn’t go so far as saying that it feels like God’s work, but revising gives me the opportunity to make the story better. Learning to relish the revision process has also taken the pressure off of drafting for me. I don’t have to get everything right on the first draft, because I can retool it later.
Finally, I think I’ve changed my feelings on this for two more reasons: I’ve grown as a writer and I’ve grown as a human being.
Seriously, I think I’m a better writer than I used to be (which is a huge relief), and because of that, I’m stretching more. I’m taking on bigger story challenges, which means that revising gives me sometimes much-needed opportunities to dig in.
Also, and this was the big revelation: I think I’ve matured into this place. A lot of that “revision is just fixing mistakes” feeling comes from me being a perfectionist and from me being impatient – two of my greatest flaws. I’ve never liked having to labor over a task. I want it to be perfect, yes, but I also want it to be perfect right out of the gate. Because I’m rational enough to know that nothing is ever perfect, I’ve managed to disengage a lot of that particular expectation, but it’s always seemed that the price I pay is still wanting it to be wonderful the moment I finish.
But not so much anymore. I still want the book to be as wonderful as it can be, but I have much more patience these days for working and reworking until it is. I don’t feel the same pressure of vanishing time that I used to.
Maybe that comes from being older, or from being farther along in my career. Regardless, it’s a better place to be.
I often reflect on how grateful I am that self-publishing was not so easy, acceptable and readily available when I was shopping my first novel. I revised that sucker numerous times because I felt forced to. If I wanted to sell that book to a publisher, I had to find ways to make it better. If I’d been able to publish it myself, I would not have put myself through that pain. And it is a much better book. Though not as good as I’d make it now, if I could go back and revise. I cringe a little when someone says they’re reading that first novel, but nothing like I would if they read that first version I hugged and cuddled like a precious baby – and lacked the perspective to recognize just how bad it was.
Perspective that also now allows me to value the revision process in a way I never could before.
So, though I’ll still answer the question that I love drafting more, I also don’t hate revision the way I used to. Which is kind of a cool place to be.
What about you all – Team Drafting or Team Revision?
This was such a great post and so timely for me! Here are a few of my thoughts:
- I’m Team Drafting: While I definitely understand the value of revision (I think its presence/absence can make or break a book), I much prefer drafting. The story feels immediate and real. Yes, the “exultation to utter despondency” can be emotionally draining, but I prefer riding the roller coaster to reviewing its engineering plans. Revision, for me, always requires bird’s- eye view to microscopic… big picture to itty, bitty and back again… It’s enough to give me a migraine.
- I probably feel that way because I’m currently revising Pocket Full of Tinder. 😀
- I’ve talked before about the pressure writers feel to produce more work faster so I’m not going to belabor that point again, but I think it’s related to Jeffe’s post. I absolutely agree with her — revision is ESSENTIAL. Don’t rush to publish. And yet I understand why some writers would want to. You hear a lot about FOMO these days (“fear of missing out”). Whenever I read those articles or posts, my gut reaction is to scoff. “Yeah, right,” I think. “Like I’d ever feel like I’m missing out. I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing.” … … … But I realized the other day that I *do* experience FOMO. Maybe not with respect to social events or life experiences or keeping up with every little bit of online info but with respect to PUBLISHING. So, yeah, ye writers in the starting gate who are kicking at the door — I get you.
- I envy writers like Jeffe who seem to grow more and more confident with each book. For me, I feel like each one is as tough as the last, just in different ways.
- But you know what they say: if it was easy, everyone would do it. ANYONE can click a “publish” button these days. But not everyone can write a quality novel. Don’t be the person that just clicks a button. Take the hard road. You’ll be in great company! 🙂
The Crown of the Queen
A Twelve Kingdoms Novella
Dafne Mailloux, librarian and temporary babysitter to the heirs to the High Throne of the Twelve – now Thirteen – Kingdoms, finds it difficult to leave the paradise of Annfwn behind. Particularly that trove of rare books in temptingly unfamiliar languages. But duty calls, and hers is to the crown. It’s not like her heart belongs elsewhere. But how can she crown a queen who hesitates to take the throne?
This novella will be part of a duology called For Crown and Kingdom, which will also contain a novella by Grace Draven called The Undying King
For Crown and Kingdom (The Crown of the Queen) will release on May 31, 2016 and will be available in digital format and print.
Buy links will be added to the bookpage once available: http://www.jeffekennedy.com/for-crown-and-kingdom/
More on Jeffe
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.
Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review was nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose was nominated for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2014 and the third book, The Talon of the Hawk, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015. Two more books will follow in this world, beginning with The Pages of the Mind May 2016. A fifth series, the erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, started with Going Under, and was followed by Under His Touch and Under Contract.
She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.
Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary.
* Jeffe also gets the award for Most Links In A Bio. 😀 😀 😀
Writers, what about you? Which is your favorite — drafting or revision? Do you regret mistakes in earlier works? Wish you could go back and change them? Thank you, Jeffe, for guest blogging today. Best wishes for The Crown of the Queen!