Thursday, November 18, 2010

Revisions or what’s done is done

Authors spend countless hours hunched over their keyboards crafting and completing manuscripts. With the proliferation of self-publishing, what’s done can be done. You can publish your first draft, if you like. What's your goal: to have your words available via Kindle/Nook, etc.? Or do you want readers to find your book amidst the multitudes and click "buy" so you can make money?

How do you know your book is ready to publish? Some authors have a critique group or partner(s) and/or freelance editors vet their manuscripts. You have to trust your gut to tell you if they’re making your work better, or, though well-intentioned, leading you astray. In the end, even the best critiquers/freelancers can’t make an agent love your project enough to take you on or motivate a publisher to buy.

So even in this digital age, many still need an editor employed by a publisher, or an agent and an editor...they have the ability and power to market or buy your work. But they must approve of and love a project before they'll put their reputation and time behind it. One or both may send a revision letter with changes that need to be made before going to market. I know successful authors who've ripped certain manuscripts apart and rewritten them (sometimes more than once) before selling. Others refuse to change a word or agree to make some changes but not others.

What if you’re asked or advised to add an element you hadn’t intended to include or remove one you wanted to keep? If you say no, are you being stubborn/difficult to work with or believing in your product?

“One paranormal element is hard to sell.” Removing the paranormal element would've required coming up with a new backstory, motivation and conflict for the hero and reworking parts of the plot influenced by it.
“This isn’t hot enough at the beginning.” Some characters jump into bed at the drop of a hat, others would seem out of character if they did. Changing motivation is a challenge.
“You have too many POV characters, eliminate Jane.” To do this without having too many scenes in a row in the same POV, I made a slip of paper for each scene listing POV (with each character in a different color) and what happened and arranged them on my desk. I spent hours wrestling with what could stay and what had to go.
“France is a hard sell. Move it to Scotland.” Or “Regency set historicals are selling better than medievals.” Imagine the research required to make this change. Plot changes to, to incorporate historical events in your new location or time period and take out those you had.
“I sold by making my historical into an inspirational, they're buying a lot of those.” Or "Steampunk is so hot now." You have to learn the requirements for a new market and determine if you have the skills/interest to write them. Many advise against writing to trends, because by the time you finish and sell the ms, there'll be a new trend.

Sometimes changes make a work more marketable and/or stronger. Other times, you’re stuffing a square peg into a round hole. It's hard to know if your time is best spent revising or writing a new project. What do you think?

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