It’s been a while since I’ve posted here because I’m currently on vacation with my family: 5 days with my extended family in the Utah mountains, then four days at the Stoker conference, then three days in Disneyland (with 4 kids–I’m going to die), then five days in Sacramento with family. It’s a lot of fun, but there’s not a lot of time for posting things on websites.
What there is time for, however, is reflecting on the revision process. I’m not far enough along in Strawberry Fields to need any major revisions yet; doing big revisions before a book is finished is a sign that either 1) you didn’t plan well enough beforehand, or 2) you’re scared of imperfection so you’re wasting time fixing things instead of finishing them. Ideally, I try to finish a book AND wait a month or so before I go back to it and start any kind of in-depth revision or re-writing. That does not mean, however, that I do no revisions at all. There is plenty of room for small-scale revisions as you go, as long as you’re not letting them get in the way of finishing your book.
When I talked about “Plowing Onward,” I described the way I use an outline: a broad skeleton that lets me know what should happen and when, and on which I can hang all the little details and backstory and foreshadowing that I know (from my pre-writing) need to be there. This system works really well for me, but that doesn’t mean I always get all the pieces in place on the first try. Sometimes (by which I mean “several times per book”) I’ll get to a point in the story where I know it’s time to go back and fill in all the extra details that I missed on the first pass. Maybe there’s a character who doesn’t show up until later, and I need to go back and add a few early references to make the introduction work. Maybe there’s a mystery that should be coming clear by a certain point, but I need to go back and add more clues. Recently in Strawberry Fields, I was writing up some character backstory that really felt stupid, and I couldn’t figure out why, and then I realized that it’s because I hadn’t foreshadowed it right–this was a good place for that information to be explained, but not a good place for it to be introduced. I had to go back and add a few blips here and there to make the flow of information seem more natural and less like a big crazy revelation out of left field.
This doesn’t work for everybody, especially if your internal editor is stronger than it should be–you want to be telling a good story, not worrying about repairing tiny mistakes. Most of the revision you feel like you have to do RIGHT NOW (particularly for newer, less-experienced writers) can actually wait until after you’re done. But once you’ve learned how to tell your internal editor to shut up and mind its own business, it’s easier to identify which changes can wait and which changes will help you write a stronger book.