Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Revision and Remodeling

I've decided writing and revising a novel is a lot like buying and remodeling a house. Here's a comparison from my own life lately, based on my novel SHAPERS and the house my hubby and I just bought here in sunny ol' California.

Initial Stuff
SHAPERS: Wrote rough draft, mid-Feb to mid-May of 2010. Yep, 2.5 months.
HOUSE: Searched from mid-July 2012 to mid-October 2012. Yep, 3 months.

False Start
SHAPERS: Met interested editor at SCBWI conference; tweaked and sent off. Crickets.
HOUSE: Put in offer on a house on 1/4 acre built in 1972, 2000 sq. ft.; offer accepted and then house was taken off market due to odd legalities.

Trying Again
SHAPERS: Tweaked more, sent to agents: 2 requested fulls but ended up rejecting. Met the lovely Kelly Sonnack at SCBWI retreat in Oct. 2010, who requested full.
HOUSE: Found another house and made offer that fell through 'cuz they didn't accept VA loans. Found a lovely purple tri-level built in 1990 with 1668 sq. ft. on 1/4 acre.

The ONE!
SHAPERS: Call with Kelly in April 2011; she offered representation! Signed contract.
HOUSE: Put in offer on the tri-level mid-Oct. 2012; it was accepted! Started escrow.

Revision and Remodeling 
SHAPERS: Kelly's editorial notes: Boost romance, get closer to 80K words from 63K, fix "empty" villain, change the ENTIRE ENDING (gak!), slash a coupla scenes, etc.
HOUSE: Projects: Remove red/green chair railing, take down hugeous red/green shelves in living room, paint over the light GREEN living room walls (gak!), take down flat PLAID valances, remove door molding chewed on by a dog, etc.

Living room BEFORE, with old owner's belongings. Cluttered! Ugleee carpet.
SHAPERS: Sept. 2011. MC still "felt distant." Kelly suggested switching from 3rd to 1st person POV. Gulp. Extra surprise: I decided didn't sound right in past tense anymore, and changed the novel to present tense. Did 2 line-edits + minor changes in 2012.
HOUSE: After we moved in: That ugleee stained and worn carpet just had to go. Went with oak hardwood laminate. Extra surprise: With the carpet up, we discovered the sliding glass door had been leaking…had to replace the door, too.

2013 Final (?) Touches
SHAPERS: Made MC less snarky/insensitive, with less selfish goals. Boosted sci-fi worldbuilding elements. Fleshed out 2 minor characters, toned down another one.
HOUSE: Bought area rug and curtains for living room. Found awesome impressionistic-looking valance for kitchen at a thrift store for $7. Painted my office. Hung pictures.

Living room, AFTER. Less cluttered, hardwood laminate flooring.
Living room AFTER. I've since lowered the highwater curtains! :)
Whew. Are we there yet? Perhaps not, but I'm getting WAY closer on both, and really liking the changes. Special thanks to my CP Lynda Young for continuing to gruel along with me while I shape up SHAPERS, and Michael Di Gesu for sharing interior decorating tips for my new house!!

SHAPERS: Guess you'll have to wait to see. I hope you get to read it someday!
HOUSE: Photos in this post…my new writing office is below. I love it!

My writing spot, where Words Happen. Includes assorted dragons and sewing machine.
Guest bed side. Includes ballerina I drew eons ago, my bear Woofie, and the quilt I  made.
Have you had to revise and revise, like I have? Is your manuscript getting stronger?
Have you remodeled a house and shaped it up the way you wanted it--or do you have ongoing or future projects you'd still like to tackle?


  1. Your home searching remodeling job does sound a lot like you manuscript's journey. I hope we get to read your book someday too!

    We moved into a new house last year, so I can relate to this post in many ways. The stress, the work, the uncertainty. And going in, you always think it will be easier than it actually is!

  2. Carol, this post gives me so...much...hope. One, I am rewriting a manuscript from scratch, and I went from past tense to present tense because I like the immediacy of it. I have worked on this manuscript for 4 years with so many requests/R&Rs and no takers, and I was seriously on the brink of quitting.

    Two, I am preparing my house to put on the market, and I keep wanting to make it "perfect." But there is this little voice in my head saying, "Stop trying to do too much. If someone wants this house, they will take it like it is and make their own changes." Seeing how you purchased your house even though it was a bit cluttered, with stained carpet, gives me hope.

    Your "new" house is absolutely beautiful!

  3. You're right, there's a lot in common with the two. We bought a house last June. Had new flooring put in and I painted the whole house before we moved in. (It was an exhausting week, for sure.) Now I'd just like to spruce up the place. Furniture that fits the house better, paint the outside light covers, stuff like that.

    Thanks for posting your house transformation! Love this kind of stuff. :)

  4. I thought I'd hate rewriting/editing my MS, but I'm enjoying it. It's like going to the opticians for a new pair of glasses.

  5. I thought I'd hate rewriting/editing my MS, but I'm enjoying it. It's like going to the opticians for a new pair of glasses.

  6. What a wonderful comparison, Carol! Revising and remodeling have a lot in common. It looks like your hard work is paying off in your beautiful home and it sounds like similar hard work is bringing your manuscript to where it needs to be. You must be exhausted! : )

  7. Hi, Carol,


    You did an amazing job pulling your new home together. ALL THE BEST!

    Thanks for the mention.

  8. Loved this - especially the before and after of your house. It looks much nicer! And oh yes, I revise all the time it seems. Recently I revised the beginning of my time-traveling romance and got a request for a of these days I'll get it right, lol.

  9. Love this one! Great parallels! And a wonderful post as always!

  10. Ha! I was just thinking I'd love to see what your new place looks like. I love those floorboards!!

    And thanks for the kind shout out. I LOVE Shapers, and it's been so great to see it progress and get better with every edit.

  11. Wow, sounds like you're keeping quite a schedule, power to you! :)

  12. I know about endless revisions.

    Your house looks awesome.

  13. I can see there are similarities between the two - I'd rather work on a novel though.

    Think it's interesting you showed the before picture. The previous owners presumably liked it that way and may have worked hard to get it that way, but you didn't like it at all. Novels can be like that too. We work as hard as we can but even then our finished work won't be to everyone's taste.

    Guest room is my favourite - love that quilt.

  14. LOL! Revisions... I have one book I've revised 50+ times. Some of us just start a new manuscript, I rewrite old ones. =) Honestly, I think you grow the most from "remodeling" your books and discovering what does and doesn't work, and why.

    Never actually remodeled a house, but I love how you changed your place. Very nice.

  15. What a great comparison! We moved into a newly-built condo, so luckily there was no remodelling to do. I'm not very good at that, and too impatient too. I want it all done now! Which is maybe why I always put off editing... if only I could finish it all in one night! Okay, one week, at least...

  16. I've never put a book I wrote through extensive revisions. I don't like revising or rewriting much; though nothing beats having an end product you're proud of.

  17. I love how you paralleled these two different processes. :) Great job on both remodeling and revising. Love the pictures!

  18. Wow!! totally enjoyed reading about your writing/moving process!!

    Im wishing you ALL the best of luck! hopefully, since you have revised SO MUCH (past tense to present, AND 3rd person to 1st person POVs!! Oh MY!) it is ready to be sold to ONE OF THE BIG SIX!! :)

    Im wishing you GREAT Luck and Success!!

    -Theresa Jones


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