Exactly 30 days ago I received my editorial package from my editor complete with editorial letter, manuscript filled with comments, and a 30 day deadline. Let the challenge begin.
This is how I felt on Day 1:
This is how I feel today:
And this is how I survived:
Despite the late nights, the hair pulling, and the stress, I have loved every minute of it. It’s my calling, my passion and even when it’s hard, even when I want to call it quits and scream out the window into the raging storm “I can’t do this anymore!” deep down, I wouldn’t trade one minute of it for all the chocolate in Switzerland.
Here are some things I learned along the way.
Mistakes, I’ve made a few:
1) Do not, I repeat, do not read through the entire manuscript and comments before you start revisions. That’s what the editorial letter is for; it gives you the breakdown on what to concentrate on and how the changes work for the overall arc of the story. Reading through the manuscript and picking apart every comment, like I did, is not helpful, and in my case, only overwhelmed me and set me into a state of panic before I had even begun. Lesson learned. I won’t be doing that again.
2) Don’t panic. I admit that after reading through the comments and the editorial letter, the thirty day deadline freaked me right out. To battle that fear factor, I had to ride my dragon, as Tonia so elegantly puts it, take a deep breath and take that leap of faith. I’m a professional now, dammit and it’s time to stop saying it and started believing it because it’s true. This is not a dream, this is reality.
3) Don’t jump around. I started in chapter one, but as I went through reading the comments, I would stop to correct things here and there, losing focus and making it harder to know what I’d changed and what I hadn’t. I only did this for an hour or so and found out it wasn’t working for me.
What I learned: (Can be applied to revisions from critiques and used for self imposed deadlines)
1) Read the editorial letter first, in its entirety, let it simmer for a day, think through the suggestions in your head as you think through your story, but don’t open the manuscript and start working. The next day, read through the editorial letter again. Take a deep breath and then open the manuscript and look through the comments, but don’t dwell on them, look for themes, or big issues that you want to keep in your head as you work through the revisions. Don’t start changing anything yet. Again, let things settle into your brain before starting.
2) Schedule a call or meeting with your editor right away. You’re not alone. Your editor is there to help. Make sure you let them know how you’re feeling. Write a list of questions as you go through the editorial letter and track changes comments. Include anything you’re unclear about and everything you disagree with and why. You will need to justify your reason for not changing something, but don’t be defensive. You both have one goal, to make your book the best it can possibly be. You might disagree on some things, but building trust and learning to listen and negotiate is important.
3) Set a revision schedule. Think about how many chapters you need to revise, how many days you have to do it, and what other commitments you have in your life that you have to fit in along with your writing. How many chapters do you need to average a day in order to make the deadline? Simple, right? Breaking it down helps the task seem less overwhelming. It’s easier to think about revising an average of 1.3 chapters a day than it does 39 chapters in less than 30 days.
4) Use a calendar to schedule your time and set a goal for each day depending on your commitments. Some days you might be able to get more than 1.3 chapters done while other days you won’t. Developing a plan for the entire month helps keep the balance.
5) Be flexible. Your schedule isn’t set in stone. Things come up that take your time away, other days you might have more free time than you thought, use it to your advantage, but keep your average up. Re-evaluate your schedule daily. Some days I would do over and above my goal and some days not, depending on how difficult the changes were for that chapter.
4) Take it Bird by Bird. (If you haven’t heard of the book Bird by Bird: Instructions for Writing and Life by Anne Lemont, I highly recommend it.) Ann Lemont explains how her ten year old brother was trying to get a report on birds written which was due the next day. He was frustrated and overwhelmed, close to tears when their father sat down and told him ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’ Best advice ever and this became my mantra.
5) Give yourself a deadline before your deadline so that you finish early and can complete a full read-through and clean up before sending it to your editor.
6) Ask for support. I explained to my hubby that this month was going to be difficult and I would need him to make dinner and do the laundry and that I wouldn’t be able to go out on the weekends as much because I had a deadline. I couldn’t have made it through the month without him.
7) Most importantly, reward yourself daily. Work for something good. A piece of chocolate? Reading? Playing a video game? Watching your favourite tv show? You put in the work, you get the reward.
In the end, I finished the revisions a full 5 days ahead of schedule, leaving me time to read-through, tweak, and clean up. Now I’m anxious to see what my editor has to say about the changes. Have I done enough? *bites nails*
On to round two!
What have each of you been up to in your writing journey? Are you drafting, plotting, revising? I would love to know more about each of your projects.