THE DREADED REVISION PROCESS

I’ve been meaning to write a series of posts about my publishing journey with the hope that it might help someone who is in the querying trenches. My last post was a while ago after I’d just signed with my agent. Since then I got a book deal (dreams do come true!) and now in less than a year THE LOVE AND LIES OF RUKHSANA ALI will be out in the world. Some days I still have to pinch myself to believe that it’s actually happening.

So I thought it might be helpful if I write about what the process has been like for me so far.

Revising With My Agent

After signing with my agent in November of 2016, we got down to the business of revisions. My agent is highly editorial and very hands-on which is exactly what I wanted and needed. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have clear communication, especially during your initial conversations. It is so important to be on the same page as far as what you both expect from this relationship, because hopefully it will be a long-term one.

Now, obviously your agent offered to represent you because they already loved your writing. But this doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of room for improvement. One of the things I learned during the revision process is that there is always a way to make your writing even better. Your agent can guide you through this. They are a sounding board, someone who is in your corner and wants the book to be amazing as much as you do. Remember this when you first get your edit letter and take a very deep breath. But then don’t forget to let it out.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind as you go through the edit letter:

-You may not agree with everything your agent says. And this is perfectly okay. It is your book after all and no one knows your story and your characters as well as you do. But an agent offers a different perspective, an experienced set of eyes which is something really invaluable. But again, it’s completely fine to disagree on things. What you don’t want to do is take it personally and react from that mindset. I think many of us wish/think that we’ve written this fabulous novel and an agent will read it and absolutely love it and not want to make any changes because of said fabulousness. I’m sure that happens for some people, but for most of us whipping a book into shape so that it’s ready for submission can be a grueling process during which we convince ourselves many times that what we write is utter garbage. Or maybe that was just me.

-Don’t rush the process. I admit that I’m definitely guilty of this. I am a very impatient person, so it took a lot of discipline for me to hold back and not rush through any revisions. Reminding myself that my agent was devoting her time and energy to give me thorough notes helped. I wanted to improve my manuscript with each revision. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t right away. You just have to keep going, stepping away when you need to, doing something unrelated to writing just so you can approach each revision with a clear mind.

When I look back at those few months I spent on revisions with my agent, I am so grateful that I had her excellent notes and open mind to guide me through it all. My book is so much better because of it.

Next up: Revising With My Editor

Ways to Improve Creativity

I was thinking about ways to improve creativity, so I did some research and here’s what I’ve come up with:

-Keep an open mind about…well pretty much anything…what you read, who you talk to, what you watch. You never know what will inspire you and help you create the next great piece of art or literature.

-Use all your senses when you go about your daily activities. Observe the people on the bus, in line at the coffee shop and grocery store. Listen to how they talk to one another and what kind of hand gestures they use. The next time you go to a restaurant, an art gallery or a  farmer’s market, take in all the colours, flavours and scents that surround you. You never know where inspiration might strike.

-Put judgment aside for some time. When we look at something in our usual way it may colour our perception.

-Determine when and where you are at your creative best. It could be quiet mornings at your regular coffee shop or your local library. Or it could be in your favourite chair at home with soft music in the background.

-Add creative and inspiring people into your social circle. It rubs off.

Don’t let a slight lag in creativity let you give up on your dreams. Find what works for you and let the creative juices flow.

What to do if you hate the novel you wrote

What do you do when you’ve finally finished your novel, but you look back at it and hate most of what you wrote?

I’m sure most writers have at some point in their careers looked at their completed work and decided that it would never see the light of day. A few months ago I just stopped writing. I didn’t write any posts, I didn’t want to look at my chapters and I didn’t want to read other people’s writing. In fact, even in the grocery store I avoided the book aisle like the plague. It was as if I was angry with writing in general and wanted to have nothing to do with it. Then a few weeks ago I decided to take a peek at the opening chapter of my novel. I read it as if it had been written by someone else. And I really liked it. So I read a little more. Then I read the comments from the editor I had sent my novel to . He had a lot to say, some good, some not so good, but all very helpful and encouraging. Then I remembered something I read somewhere and I realized that instead of just dropping this project which I had worked quite hard on, I could work at it some more and make it really good. I was already on the right track and all I needed was to stick with it. But that was the hardest part for me. I have a history of not sticking with things, not because I can’t do them, but because when something doesn’t turn out perfectly the first time I tend to give up.  It turns out that I’ve been standing in my own way. So my new goal is to fix what I can fix and then send it out into the world and hope that people like it.

Here is what I have learned from the last few months of wallowing in self-doubt:

I may truly just be a bad writer.

My internal editor may be taking control of my creative side.

I may be a perfectionist, which is pretty much a death sentence for a writer, because who can produce a perfect first draft?

I might be afraid of failure and it’s easier to just give up.

Lastly, I might just be a whiny pants who needs a swift, hard kick in the butt to pick up my novel where I left off and work at it until it’s the best that it can be.

So, today I’m deciding to do that last one. Hope to hear from you about your moments of doubt.