Gone Revisin’

Wasn’t Tara Dairman’s launch party week fun? And lucky me, she and I are neighbors, so I was able to join in the festivities in person at her launch party in Boulder. I sampled Tree-nut tarts, homemade hummus, and gajar ka walwa, three recipes inspired by All Four Stars. Tara (and Gladys!) charmed the crowd, and the party ended with a long line of readers eager to have their book signed.




And a lucky one of YOU is the winner of a signed copy of All Four Stars! And that winner is:


Congratulations, Leandra!

*     *     *     *


I wanted to write a funny post for today about receiving my first-ever, under-contract, editorial letter from my editor, and the excitement of that moment. (I may have kissed my letter).



I wanted to write a post about how receiving that letter makes everything feel real, and how you have all these fluttery feelings about your dream being realized, and you read the letter in a state of almost disbelief and wonder . . .



Approximately what I looked like upon receiving my editorial letter.


. . . and then the panic sets in when you realize this is for real-for real, and strangers are going to be reading your book, and these revisions are one of your last shots to make your book as good as can be, and–AAAAAGH!

(Just a minor panic attack. Excuse me for a minute while I hyperventilate into a paper bag.)

Okay, I’m back.


My desk pre-revisions.


My plan had been to write this post in diary format, like I’d gone missing while doing revisions and the diary entries would show me progressing from enthusiasm to panic to determined resolve to the voices taking over and me going crazy . . . I don’t know, it was hilarious in my mind. But that’s the thing about writing, right? It’s all brilliant in our minds. Who would ever sit down and dedicate priceless hours, weeks, months, years to craft a story with the intention of having flat characters and a derivative plot and clichéd dialogue? We are all trying to tell good stories to the best of our abilities.



My desk during revisions. . .


But I couldn’t pull off the super-duper funny (no-really-it would-have-been) (probably) diary format post idea because my brain is totally fried, you guys. More fried than eggs at a roadside diner. More fried than a bucket of KFC.  More fried than all the food combined at a state fair.


Mentally speaking, this is about the phase I’m at right now with my revisions. So things are going well . . .


But what I do have for you today are links to some great posts on revision that have helped me along the way in my own process. I’m including snippets that give you a taste, but if you are revising or will soon be revising, I highly recommend reading all of these in full. Without further ado:

From Anna Staniszewski‘s blog post “Lessons from the Revision Cave”:

“. . . since I didn’t have time to let the manuscript sit in order to gain some perspective on it, I read the entire manuscript aloud. This got me to really focus on it again, instead of just skimming over what I’d read a hundred times before, and notice things that still needed work.”

From middle-grade author and former literary agent Nathan Bransford‘s post “How to Respond to a Manuscript Critique/Editorial Letter”:

“Confronting a revision can be extremely daunting because of the Cascade Effect: when you change one plot point it necessitates two more changes so that the plot still makes sense after the change, which prompts still more changes and more and more. Ten or more changes can cascade from a single change, even a minor one.”

From author Lisa Schroeder‘s post, “Monday Motivation on Revision”:

“For me, when I’m deleting old scenes and writing new ones, I’m often scared I’m making the book worse instead of better. And it’s so messy – all that deleting and moving things around.”

From author Jeannine Atkins‘s post “Building and Wrecking Walls of Words”:

“Revision means going back to dredge through what we first came up with. Kicking holes while asking new questions, which lead to still more questions, which stage greater messes, demanding we again haul out the trash and finally tidy.”

From Maggie Stiefvater‘s “On Characters, Knowing Them”:

“I need to know what they want out of life so I can deprive them of it. I need to know what their mortal flaw is so they can struggle to overcome it. I need to know who they love so I can turn that person into a wolf and laugh meanly.”

From Jennifer Hubbard‘s “Avoiding Info Dumps”:

“People around us don’t stop to explain every little thing, every piece of their history, every allusion they make. We are used to gathering information and piecing it together ourselves.”

From Nathan Bransford again, this time on revision fatigue:

“The best way to deal with revision fatigue is to trust in your heart that it’s a very useful and necessary feeling: what better time to turn a critical eye on your book than when you think it is an affront to humanity?”

And from the Emu’s Debuts archives, a post by Lisa Schulman “Real Life: The Nemesis of Revision”:

 “No one ever warned me that the pre-publication revision stage would result in Foggy Brain Syndrome, which gives another disorder I suffered from, Pregnancy Brain, a run for its money. Life has somehow become the dream, and the world of my book-in-progress, reality. I am not fully functional in the noggin’, and I can’t quite explain why.”



jenn.bertman-2002139Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the author of the forthcoming middle-grade mystery, Book Scavenger (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt/Macmillan, 2015). Book Scavenger launches a contemporary mystery series that involves cipher-cracking, book-hunting, and a search for treasure through the streets of San Francisco. Jennifer earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College, Moraga, CA, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

You can find Jennifer online at http://writerjenn.blogspot.com where she runs an interview series with children’s book authors and illustrators called “Creative Spaces.


Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Deadlines, Editing and Revising

16 responses to “Gone Revisin’

  1. Congratulations on that editorial letter. Hyperventilating, hunkering in: it’s all a process, with that child’s glee keeping coming back, I hope. I’m happy that one of my blog posts kept you some company, and now yours is urging me on. I won’t wish you luck — you already have it, and determination. Just cheers — yay!


    • Your post was so helpful, Jeannine. One of the insecurities I’ve been working with is that I’m making everything worse–it was all neat and tidy before and I’ve come in and flung everything around, and then had a moment of “Oh dear . . . this mess I’ve made!” But your words calmed me, and reminded me that it’s a normal part of the process. It will get neat and tidy again


      • P.S., I remember feeling EXACTLY this way during my first big edit of AFS. And the good people of Emus reassured me that what I turned in to my editor didn’t have to be perfect, since we’d be doing more edits–it just had to be going in the right direction. That helped a lot, but I agree, it’s scary to rip into something that felt stable, even if it’s for the best in the end!


  2. Well congratulations! Carry on, hunker down and all that good stuff! Seriously though, reading this is so helpful and inspirational to anyone currently working on a book (ME!). Best of luck! 🙂 ~Karen~


  3. Megan Morrison

    How cool that you got to celebrate in person with Tara! I really appreciate this post. I need lots of different ways of thinking about revision. The cascade effect is very true for me – writing a series means that changes to one book results changes across every book, which is so daunting sometimes! It’s great to hear how other authors think about and deal with these things. Congratulations on your letter and good luck with revisions!


    • Dude, Megan, we need to talk series. Or more to the point–I need to pick your brain for wisdom. My second book in this series is only loosely planned right now, and that’s one of the things that makes me nervous–setting up something in this first book that I’ll find problematic committing to down the line.


      • EXACTLY. My second book is drafted, but I’m going through the same thing – just got my 1st-pass pages, and oh my God, I’m committing to all of this information as permanent world-building. Gah. I don’t know if I have any wisdom, but I would sure love to talk.


  4. Great post, Jen! And coming up with it in the middle if revisions? Utterly miraculous! 🙂


    • Thanks so much, Laurie! I’m running on some sort of super-charged crazy energy right now. I think the word for it might be panic? It’s a manic panic. I will probably crash after my deadline. (And if traditions from college still hold–get sick after a crazy stretch of deadlines is over with.) Glad you enjoyed the post!


  5. Very nice post, Jenn! Thanks for all the links. They’re great!


  6. Jenn, these links are so awesome! I can’t believe you created such a resource while in the thick of revising!!


  7. Yay! Thanks for the giveaway opportunity guys. I really appreciate it! And I thought you still crafted a very funny post, Jenn. Though I’m sorry I’m smiling at your expense. =) Also, I love your desk and bookcases!


  8. Lindsey Lane

    Jenn, thank you for portraying the insanity of this process in this insanely smart post.


  9. This is all such great stuff!! Editorial letters are incredibly scary to wait for, and often even more difficult to ingest once received than any writer could imagine. But then . . . the book turns out amazing!! Thanks for this awesome post, Jenn!


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