I wanted to do a revision post for the manuscript submission of JUST SOUTH OF CURSED, my forthcoming middle-grade novel with Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. So I thought I would revisit my writing journal entries from last summer when I was right in the thick of revising for my agent.
I’ve kept a writing journal for several years now and I took copious notes about this revision – but when I reviewed the entries – they were so specific to this particular novel project, I decided it wouldn’t be much help to share with other writers.
So I decided to focus on the emotional part of the revision. The mental aspect of going through it. I wrote down many thoughts and it was interesting to go back and read them. I also noticed a trend – I did a lot of positive self-talk to get myself through this revision. I had to become my own cheerleader and champion.
I wanted to share some of these entries because as writers, we all have struggles and we all have doubts about our work. I thought these entries could be helpful to other writers to know they’re not alone in the revision trench – and it is a very deep trench!
July 2016 Entries
After getting the editorial letter from my agent
I printed out the letter but I think it may better serve me to just read it online first and then maybe next week re-read, highlight and then make notes.
It’s not going to be easy but I think I can do this. I’m going to make this story even better. At the end of the day, I have to get to the point where I can determine on my own what needs work and what doesn’t.
I just need to have focus. Focus is what I need. I can do this. I can revise this. I can make it stronger. I can do it.
I can make this into something. I can reach this hard goal.
August 2016 Entries
Deciding to revise before I go to work and on the weekends
I must manage my time better. I need to think about what I want to accomplish and try to grow in my craft. I’ve made progress. I have a lot to be proud of. But now I’ve got to put my focus on this revision and try to make it the best it can be.
After updating my revision outline and realizing I have a LOT of new scenes to write
I’ve been scared to write anything new. Okay, I need to write something. I can’t compare myself to anyone else.
I need to get a grip. There is only so much writing I can do these days. I know I need to start writing already but I have so many limitations with my time.
The words I write don’t have to be perfect. Just start somewhere. It doesn’t have to be the final draft. You just need to get words down on the page.
You can do this.
Officially in the drafting grind
One thing I’m learning with this revision is that although I don’t spend a huge amount of time with the story, the time that I do spend in writing the words makes a difference. I also must remember that drafting is very shitty and there has to be that stage before you can start to make everything pretty.
I’m serious about the concentration. I can do this. I just need the focus and know that it is a process. Drafting out these new scenes will be a pain in the ass. Making up stuff from scratch is never fun but in the midst of all this, I already see little nuggets of scenes forming in my mind and I can make this happen.
For this revision, I’m going to try not to freak out and just stay in the moment and do what I can. I think I would rather just not even worry about how long this revision will take.
September 2016 Entries
In the midst of drafting new scenes
I have to remember what one writer said about self-forgiveness. I may need to go try and find that and read it again.
Okay yes, I found it. The writer is Daniel José Older. He said writing is about self-forgiveness.
I’m not going to beat myself up. I’m just not.
Writing draft is so hard.
I think the hardest part is writing new words. Out of thin air. I hate writing draft. It’s depressing but I have to do it. I have to write down words first in order for me to make them better.
Writing draft is very painful for me. I honestly wonder how it ever gets done. The only thing I can do is just try my best.
Figuring out the best revision strategy for this project
I’m starting to understand this. I just can’t write a bunch of words when they don’t make sense. I mean I can draft them out but it gets to be hard to go back and fix them if they’re “pure draft”. They don’t have to be beautiful words but they can’t be ugly words either. I would rather just fix the words while I’m in the scene. For me, it helps to know where I’m going.
I’ll keep writing and learning. So I’m just going to take it day by day and see what I can get done. It’s not an impossible thing but it just may take more time.
October 2016 Entries
Agonizing in the first revision pass
I think I’ve come to some conclusions.
I’m not going to get this revision right in my first pass. Which means I probably need to move on and at least get all the way through.
Finishing this first pass will give me a sense of accomplishment. But it will also give me an idea of where the work needs to go.
Looking at the work that I have to do, it’s very possible to get this done. It will require me to be diligent but it’s not an impossible task.
Managing my expectations for this revision
I think the mornings and the weekends are all I really have. I can’t write in the evenings when I get home. I always try and it never works out. I’m just too tired after a long day.
I really wish I had more time to commit to this.
It’s a LOT of work but it can be done. I can’t stress myself out on getting it done. I’m still going to get up in the mornings and still revise on the weekends. Just try to do the best that I can. But I’m no longer going to compare myself to people who write professionally for a living. It’s an unfair comparison and no help to me.
I’m learning a LOT for myself in this revision. First off, that I can write a lot of words in a short period of time. Second, that if I respect my time then I can get things done.
The mantra of the month is FOCUS. I need to focus. I know I can revise this book. I know that I can do this.
In the HOME STRETCH to finish the revision – a love/hate relationship
I’m getting discouraged. I hate perfection. Here I am trying not to freak out because this revision is not perfect. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I think it’s just that I know this revision is really hard and it’s difficult for me to face this fact. I guess I thought it would be easy?
I’ve decided that I’m not going to stress myself out. When I go on sub in 2017, this will be a much stronger book. I’m doing the best that I can right now. I need to give myself a break.
This election is pissing me off. There are so many distractions. There are so many things that I would love to do but I can’t do them because all of my free time is focused on this book.
This year has been a blessing but there are so many things that I wasn’t expecting and now here I am – on the edge of finishing this revision and my agent may still hate it.
I have to just take a deep breath and get a grip.
November 2016 Entries
Getting to the finish line!
The book is much better than before. I think I’m done with this revision. At least this round anyway. I’ll have to see what the betas say. This is a major accomplishment. Although I’m tired and numb, still excited to be able to say I finished this revision. It was so hard but it got done. It may not be perfect, but I think I’ve done the best I could with the time I had.