A Plea from the Revision Cave

So I received my editor’s revision letter–Round I. She kindly asked if I preferred to receive her notes electronically or on paper. I said, “Both, please.” It’s easier for me to work from an electronic document where I can do a search/find. But I also wanted that marked-up copy to show my students that even authors have to revise. Get a load of this puppy:

My 45-pound manuscript

As soon as I saw her revision letter in my inbox, I opened it and read through all of her comments in one go. I was prepared to like most of her suggestions, and question others. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s her, but I loved everything she had to say. Seriously. Is that normal?

I waited about 24 hours before diving in. Then I went through all of her comments in the margins and tweaked the little things. Oh, I was cruising right along! My “track changes” margins look pretty much like this most of the way through:

Whoa. That’s a whole lotta red.

Then I got to the bigger stuff. Not the the fix-the-existing parts stuff, but the create-new-parts stuff.

Can you hear that? The screeching tires? The screaming brakes? That would be me and my hey-this-isn’t-all-that-hard revisions coming to a halt. This is the part where I put scenes on cards with the number of pages per scene and take out a chapter that really didn’t fit because it was another character’s story, and it needs to be woven in elsewhere, but I can’t just take it out and leave a gaping hole because I have two main POV characters and my chapters alternate between the two, so I can’t just add new chapters willy nilly and expect the whole thing to fit together.

And this is why, at 2:30 this afternoon, I was still in my pajamas and my favorite fuzzy socks. Behold:

You know you want these socks.

Am I babbling?

Is my deadline for this round really Friday, April 1?

The answer to the above questions are:

1. Um, I’m afraid so.

2. OMG, yes!

While I’ve had deadlines before, I’ve never had a novel revision deadline. In the past, whenever I’ve hit the hard revisions, I’ve taken time–I’m talking months, in some cases–to mull things over.

So I am emerging from my revision cave to ask advice from anyone out there who has ever had to power-mull. Do you skip around the manuscript to stay fresh, or keep plugging away at one scene until you get it right? Do you step away from the computer and then–BAM! The perfect idea hits? Or is it BIC all the way? Increased doses of chocolate?

I’m open to anything–except for a change of socks.

Back to the revision cave…


Filed under Editing and Revising, Writing, Writing and Life

23 responses to “A Plea from the Revision Cave

  1. J. Anderson Coats

    I’ve never had to power-mull, but my general approach to any deadline is triage. Anything that can be handled quickly and easily, I do first. Then I rank things according to how critical they are to the task at hand, how easy they are to do and how long I think they’ll take. Then it’s all BIC all the way, ticking things off the list till I’m 1) finished or 2) dead.

    Chocolate is obligatory. And wine. And not necessarily in that order.


    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Thank you for saying that chocolate is obligatory, J. And wine. I do like your triage approach, and that’s how I began this revision. But once I got to the Code Blue! Code Blue! sections, that’s where I needed some morphine. Will keep you posted. 🙂


  2. Wow! I’ve never had the pressure of a deadline either, but for me, manual labor works. Your body has something to do — raking, dusting, washing dishes, vacuuming — freeing your mind to wander and work. Plus, the white noise of rushing water or the vacuum is very helpful. You may want to talk your issues out loud while you do this. Let the neighbors (or the cat) stare. They don’t understand you anyway. To me, sitting there is useless and frustrating and you’ll just feel the time slipping away. Go DO SOMETHING. You’ll be amazed at what happens.


    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Thanks, Maryanne! I did go for a run today while my 8-year-old biked beside me. Chatting with her was a nice break, and I did feel better when I went back to the manuscript this evening. If I get desperate enough to vacuum or dust, my family may go into shock, so I must approach that idea with caution.

      Thanks for stopping by!


    • Love this advice Maryanne. It reminds me of a friend who told me her house was NEVER as clean as during the time she was working on revisions on her dissertation.

      Good to hear from you! I hope your writing continues to go well.


  3. Sending sympathy! I’m not doing a revision now, but I am power-mulling for my next chapter book. It’s due in April, which I can’t help but notice is four days away, and I got 1/4 way in before realizing the plot wasn’t working. After spending the morning fretting, my afternoon plan is to get a pedicure. Seriously. I’ll take only a notepad and pen, I won’t be able to do the other pseudo-important things I need to do, and I won’t have internet access. After an hour and a half of sitting there, I am hoping the undistracted time (and nail polish fumes) will result in ideas. If not, I’ll have pretty toes sticking out of the cardboard box I move into. Good luck–keep us posted! And P.S. I *do* want those socks.


    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      A pedicure–of course! Then I could take a break from my favorite fuzzy socks. 😉 Good luck with your chapter book deadline! It does help to know that someone else is on deadline and is thinking of her feet. 🙂


  4. L.B. Schulman

    I have nothing of value to say as my revision letter has not arrived yet (but I sure hope I don’t get in on Tuesday and have the changes due on Wednesday.) However, I did want to say, most importantly, that I have the same socks as you and I LOVE THEM. So know you are not alone. (At least with the socks.)


    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Oh, Sock Sister,

      Are you bringing your socks to Austin? ‘Cause if so, we definitely need someone to snap a photo. Maybe Deborah, who will have her pedicured toes in a pair of cute sandals?


  5. “Power-mull” — I like that. 🙂
    For me what works is to immerse myself 100% into the book. I work — B.I.C. — starting at Page 1 and only surface to do something else (eat, bathe, sleep, compile a list where I can tick off a bunch of things in order to feel like I am accomplishing a lot) when I absolutely must.
    If I have to skip something I do, but mostly I work from the beginning of the book through to the end, untangling knots as they appear.
    This results in changes being made which weren’t on the editor’s list, but I think it improves the book.


    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      I do love this idea, Ruth! I did exactly that for the first small fixes, and it felt great! It’s when I got stuck on the new stuff that I went astray and bounced around a bit. Now that I’m back teaching this week after Revision Weekend Madness, I will make a final sweep from page 1 to THE END and hope it all makes sense. 🙂


  6. Natalie,

    I remember not having a lot of time to build a brand-new scene at the end of SAVING THE GRIFFIN. Deadlines can really be the mother of invention. I recommend continuing with the easier fixes for maybe one more day. When you’re fresh, sit down and attack that big section. Buon lavoro.


    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Grazie, Kristin–speriamo bene!

      I loved SAVING THE GRIFFIN, so this is definitely encouraging.

      This evening, I found that once I accepted the fact that the story really did need this new scene, it was actually fun to write. Hope that continues tomorrow….:)


  7. Reading through all these comments tonight was so inspiring! I haven’t yet gotten my revision letter, but it is so, so, SO wonderful to belong to a community that has so much wisdom and support to offer! I know when my time in the Revision cave comes, I will be in good hands (and I’m glad Natalie is there now, so she will have it all figured out in advance for me.)

    I have a pair of socks like that too. Definitely bringing them to Austen ladies. Any of you EMUs who don’t have them (MIKE!) need to go get some for that photo Natalie is planning to take.


  8. First of all, love the socks! I totally want a pair. As for revisions, I’d jump around to whichever ones spark my creativity at the moment. It’s tough to force yourself to come up with new material, so I say go with what’s working for you at the moment even if it means jumping all around. Good luck!


    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Thanks, Kelly! 🙂 I do think the socks make all this jumping around a bit easier. I have been able to skip around and go with what’s flowing at the time–I just hope I can keep it up all the way through. Thanks for stopping by!


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