Wednesday, June 8, 2011

REVISION: I'm hard at play

As you all probably know, on April 25 I officially acquired Kelly Sonnack of Andrea Brown Literary Agency as my fabulous agent. Since then I've been keeping my writerly nose to the grindstone as much as I can. But it's been a fun kind of work. For this post, I thought I'd share a bit of my revision journey.

So. Kelly typed up 4+ PAGES of comments, SINGLE SPACED, which she and I discussed in two separate, hour-long phone calls. Some are major revision points, some not. Yes, an agent may love your story, but that doesn't mean it can't be improved. Let the revisions begin.

THE ENDING
Since the ending of the novel left Kelly feeling flat, I've entirely rewritten the last 2 1/2 chapters. That's pretty major. My protagonist needed not only to play a more active role in the climax, but the tone of the ending had to be less syrupy and "tidy." The novel is sci-fi and kinda dystopian, so it had to match the genre. In the end, I'd given my MC almost everything she'd ever dreamed of (silly me). I had also "told" a lot of the wrap-up rather than showing it. Ahem. I rewrote it, still sticking to my philosophy of predominantly happy endings.

TOTAL LENGTH
Kelly says the "sweet spot" for YA is 80,000 (80K) words. My novel initially stood at 64K. After adding new chapters and fleshing out many scenes, I now have 76K words. Getting closer! Not sure I'll reach 80K--I don't want to have fluff for fluff's sake. Gotta keep purpose, conflict, and character development in mind for every scene. Probably some stuff will get slashed and tidied, after I'm done adding scenes.

VILLAIN MAKEOVER
Okay, still working on this one. Kelly said my antagonist was "empty" and "not interesting enough." Ouch. So I'm spiffying him up, making sure he's consistently villainous and fleshing out his character. I'm trying to work in who he is and WHY he's villainous. No one is evil in a vacuum, unless you're writing stereotypical characters or melodrama. That's my other goal--to make him more of a force to be reckoned with, without resorting to stereotypical behavior.

NEGATIVE LANGUAGE
Since my novel involves Morgan, my MC, helping heavy people lose weight, it's important that I be sensitive in my presentation of body images and attitudes toward heavier people. This is a tricky thing, because in order to have a character arc, I've started Morgan out at the novel's opening with a bit of a superior attitude toward those she's helping out--I have to show this carefully. One of my problems was that I'd incorporated Morgan's condescending attitude into the narrative (not just her thoughts and dialogue), and I had to slash those instances. I'm toning Morgan's attitude down quite a bit. I'm a little concerned I'm softening her character arc, however, that way.

It's part of the awesome responsibility of writing for teens. Books can have a major influence on someone's life, and I would hate for that influence to be negative! Teen girls have enough concerns with body weight and image as it is.

ROMANCE, ANYONE?
Another point of revision was to develop Morgan's relationship with her romance-interest more. That's a fun order! (I think most YA should include a dash of romance.) I'm adding to the budding relationship by way of shared moments, joking around, and hand-holding. Recently I wrote a "date" scene that takes place in a movie theater--sci-fi style. Gotta include a purpose for each scene, however; I also need to include dialogue or internal thoughts that relate to the conflict.

ETC., ETC.
And of course, there are many more points of tweaky revision, but I can't say those without revealing too much of the story (or boring you out of your skull). So stay tuned. The only thing I'll add is that Kelly told me I had world-building info dumps. Me? Gulp. Working those tidbits in naturally is difficult.

I'm definitely honing my writing skills, and Kelly's going to help take me to the next level!

*********************

YOUR TURN
Have you ever majorly rewritten the end of a novel?
Do you have trouble world-building in your novels without info dumping?
In general, how long are your novels? If you write YA, are they close to 80K words?
Have you written a stereotypical villain, and had to UNstereotype him/her?
Have you had to tone down your main character in order to make him/her more likeable?

34 comments:

  1. How great your agent is helping you make your story better with all those suggestions. I'm currently editing/revising my fantasy which is seriously bloated so I have lots of unnecessary info dumps to get rid of. Lots.

    good luck with your revisions!

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  2. This was super interesting! Thanks so much for sharing your revision points, and best of luck on a speedy sale when you're done!

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  3. I only started writing this November, and I always always get new ideas for new novels, so I must say I've never made it too far past a second draft because new ideas keep coming and I can't help but play around with them. However, I'm taking this extremely open month of June to write four 50k novels in a month. (Crazy, I know.) Reading about your revisions made me extremely excited to dig deep into them all someday. (And adding an extra 30k of flesh!)

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  4. Congrats on landing an agent - how exciting!

    My novels usually fall near the 80k range, which is definitely the average for YA. Villains, especially, are tough b/c obviously you want them to be "bad", but then should do that in ways unique to them.

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  5. She sounds like a super cool hands-on agent. That's the kind of one I want. Would love nothing more than tal,k to my agent for long periods of time about my book. Thrilling!

    Hope the rest of your revision goes well.

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  6. LOL I rewrote the end my book after my CP's comment. But after my beta reader's comments, I have to rewrite it again. Apparently the villian was too obvious (even though I thought it wasn't because I made him rounded. Darn it).

    Oh, so THAT'S who your villian is. :)

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  7. Thanks for sharing your revision journey!
    I've rewritten endings, yep. I've had some of the same problems in my MS too. I suppose great minds make similar mistakes, LOL!

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  8. It sounds like you've got a really amazing agent. Good luck on the rewrites!

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  9. Wow, it looks like you've got your work cut out for you. I know you can do it though. Keep keeping your chin up. I can't wait to read the finished product.

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  10. I loved the peek at what you're having to do to revise. I've been doing the same thing with my WIP. Hopefully, when I do find an agent, I will have won half the battle in editing. Good luck, and keep having fun.

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  11. My endings tend to stay fixed but the last build up to the climax tends to need work. I get near the end and I start rushing it.

    mood
    Moody Writing
    @mooderino

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  12. Isn't it so nice to have someone helping you mold your writing?

    To answer your questions, yes I have rewritten not just the end, but given entire novels a makeover.

    My novels are between 70 and 120K words, mostly for YA.

    My villains are as complex or more so than the protagonist. I believe there is no such thing as a TRUE villain, just people gone seriously wrong.

    I haven't had to tone down a MC, but deepen motivations. My hubby tells me early on if my characters are too...forthcoming.

    Congrats on the agent--and can't wait to hear news of a sold MS!

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  13. As a lucky crit partner I've been enjoying your development as a writer. You've improved in leaps and bounds.

    I'm in the middle of rewriting my end chapters as well. Major changes. It's lots of fun.

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  14. Oooh, what fun things you're adding, Carol! I'll bet all of this will make your story even more fun to read. Good luck with those revisions.

    I've just begun revisions on another book. It's quite a mess right now, but with time and patience, it might just look pretty in the end :D

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  15. Have you ever majorly rewritten the end of a novel?
    Rewritten , yes, majorly no, but maybe I should have done.

    Do you have trouble world-building in your novels without info dumping?
    In firts draft, yes, but I edit against this.

    In general, how long are your novels? If you write YA, are they close to 80K words?
    Peace Chidlt triology 103,000 each - top end of YA. Oterhs more, 60,000.


    Have you written a stereotypical villain, and had to UNstereotype him/her?
    Yes, this is another edit.

    Have you had to tone down your main character in order to make him/her more likeable?
    I keep falling out with my main character, then I forgive him, becasue actually I love him to bits.

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  16. Great post, and grats on the new agent. I went through something similar with my agent.

    Have you ever majorly rewritten the end of a novel?
    Yeppers. My agent asked me to rewrite mine. Took me two tries to get it right.

    Do you have trouble world-building in your novels without info dumping?
    I don't now, but I used to. I've found POV is a great way to back ground your world without it bogging the story down. Really get inside the POV's head and you can show the world as they see it and what it means to them, so it adds to the story in meaningful ways.

    In general, how long are your novels? If you write YA, are they close to 80K words?
    My published ones are MG (70K) but the YA I'm working on now is targeted at 80K.

    Have you written a stereotypical villain, and had to UNstereotype him/her?
    No, but I love villains so I think I might approach them differently. What works for me is to think about them as if they were the hero of their own story. They have their own goals, needs, wants, and they're going to go after those regardless of what your protag is doing. If you imagine them as real people with good and bad qualities, that fleshes them out. I love bad guys where you can think, "Well okay, if I were in his shoes I'd probably do that too"

    Have you had to tone down your main character in order to make him/her more likeable?
    Kinda doing that now with my current WIP. Duo POVs, and I realized one was really likable and the other was not (bad since she was the main character). I went back and started looking for ways to show her good traits. Softened up the harsher elements of her personality and goals. Made her a little more conflicted over some of the tougher things she had to do.

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  17. Great post, Carol. The revisions never end, do they? But if it makes the story stronger, well... it's all for the best. At least that's what I keep telling myself. Thanks for sharing!

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  18. Oh, I loved hearing about your progress with your agent. Thanks so much for sharing. I just tackled the ending of my book last night. The second to last chapter is the high climax point and it was weak, choppy, and really cheesy. It took a lot of brain power and some internal acting, but I feel like it serves its purpose now. Everyone does their thing for a reason and it's intense. Well, it was last night. We'll see how everything goes when I read over it tonight :)

    Good luck with everything! You can do it!

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  19. Clearly your agent believes in your writing and that is a huge compliment. Go, you!

    80K is about how long I go, keeping it very fast-paced for teens.

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  20. This is so exciting! Kelly sounds awesome. Good luck with your revisions.

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  21. Carol, I'm so excited to hear specifics about your revisions! Can't wait to hear more and keep up the good work!!

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  22. That's interesting about YA's sweet spot being 80,000 words. The novel I just finished is only 58,000 words. Yikes!

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  23. Hi Carol, Congratulations on the agent, and good luck with the revisions. I'm in a similar place myself and I'm finding it an incredible learning experience. I've deleted whole characters from the plot, rejigged entire sections. But what is emerging is so much better for it.

    My books are for a slightly younger age group than yours -I think you Americans call it Middle Grade, we call it the 9-12 age group and my word count is 46K, and I can relate to what you say about making the MC more likeable.

    Best wishes

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  24. I love hearing this information. One, it shows how involved a good agent will be. Two, it reminds us that a book can have "problems" and if an agent loves it, he/she will accept it anyway!

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  25. I haven't had any major revisions or rewritings as I know what I'm going to do ahead of time, at least the outline. I just fill it out as I go along.

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  26. I'm rewriting the first novel I finished; so the only word count average I have would be the one I ended it with, which was around 100k words. (The genre is Science Fiction.)

    I almost always end up info-dumping when I write. I find it hard to put in enough detail HERE and enough detail THERE, but not so much that it's a lot for the reader to swallow.

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  27. Good luck with your revisions. I love how you are taking your agent's notes to heart, but still keeping things in your comfort zone. I don't have any advice for you, but good luck!

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  28. Love the sound of your revisions, best of luck with them! Can't wait to hear more about your ending too *grins*

    Hugs,

    Rach

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  29. I love this inside look into your editing process! I've rewritten many parts of my novel, including the ending. Mine is about 75k now, so I may need to add more to it... but like you say, I don't want to add just to get to a word count. Good luck! I'm excited to hear more!

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  30. Wow, thanks for sharing all that Carol! It helps me a lot, since I'm in the middle of what feels like an unending round of edits for my own story. I think most YA should include a dash of romance too :-)

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  31. Carol,

    LOVED this post! I just went through revisions with my agent. She had a few areas where she wanted me to expand more on some of my character's emotions. Play into them more. I also had a few scenes where she wanted less internal and more dialogue.

    Most of my fixes ended up really diving into the emotions of my characters and their relationships. In my agent's words: "This is a big moment, give me more." LOL

    ((HUGS)), best wishes on your revisions lady...

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  32. Very interesting! I'm constantly trying out different endings (and beginning and middles!) --sometimes it's hard to decide which works best.

    Good luck with your revisions :)

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  33. I'm doing a major revision now. I'm changing the ending and making the MC less selfish and the villain less nasty/more realistic.

    Good luck with your manuscript.

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  34. Wonderful post, Carol. It's good to see you working your butt off. Go you. Rah.

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