Revisions - Incorporating Feedback

Last night, well after the fireworks were finished, I completed revising Mythos based on the many critiques of my wonderful friends at the YA Club on Writing.com. These folks have been reviewing chapters since the very first one I posted last fall. As they came in, I read each one, thanked the reviewer profusely and, many times, commented on one or two salient points they made. That was it, though. I filed the critique away, refusing to look back on what I'd written until the first draft was complete.

After finishing my second draft about a week ago (see my decrap-ification post), I broke open the folder of reviews. There were sixty-nine of them. Yes. 69. Inappropriate comments aside, let me just say that I felt a strange mixture of delight and horror. I had a ton of feedback on nearly almost every chapter I'd written! There's going to be lots of grammar corrections! Woo-Hoo! People are going to tell me if the characters and plot held up! Yay!

Yes, that was the "delight" portion. Onto the horror.

Sixty-nine reviews? That's a lot, isn't it? Have you ever decided to walk somewhere instead of driving, thinking, This won't be bad at all, only to find out about 60 minutes into your walk that you're not even a tenth of the way there? Yeah. This is a lot of feedback and advice to sort through, and often it feels like you are miles from your destination. You may get on a roll where a couple of reviews are primarily grammar related, with some easily fixed plot flaws or unrealistic dialog. And then you get to the killer review -- the one that points out a horrific and difficult-to-fix plot flaw, requiring you to rewrite five chapters. Or the one pointing out that your characters, who have been so consistent for ten chapters, suddenly act completely out of character. I mentioned this in my Triangle Effect post on The Crew. It's right then that you put your head on the desk and wish the teacher would just say it was nap time.

As far as revising based on critiques, like I implied, grammar is the easy bit. Loads of people are better at grammar than I am. It saves me so much time. Fresh sets of eyes always seem to find the repetitive use of words, the adverb misuse, etc. It's a huge help. As for comments on characterization and plot, well, these are the bits that sometimes cut deep. Let's review what revision round #2 is all about.

Revision Round #2 - Incorporating feedback
  1. Gather all the critiques from the critique group (in this case, my YA writing pals on writing.com).
  2. For any editing/grammar nits, revise appropriately.
  3. For the "big issues", like characterization, plot, setting, voice, etc., decide if I agree with these points. 
  • If I agree, revise appropriately. 
  • If I don't agree, but several others do, consider that I may be wrong and revise appropriately. 
  • If I don't agree, but only one or two others do, the author wins. (Stephen King rule)

Each time an excellent reviewer pointed out a "big issue" as stated above, I immediately struggled with what to do about it. After a few moments of mental anguish and indecision, I returned to the three bulleted "rules" above. Obviously, if I agreed with their point, I revised, no matter how difficult. Review number sixty-nine offered one such colossal "big issue" (thanks Laura), but I concurred with the assessment. It required quite a bit of work to redress, and hopefully I've done a reasonably good job.

As for the reviews I disagreed with, well, emotion tends to get involved. The "rules" are meant to help you avoid emotion. Still, as writers, we tend to be a smidgen, um, protective of our babies.

Across the many reviews, there were a number of issues with which I disagreed. However, when multiple people raised the same issue in one fashion or another, I forced myself to revise. Heaven help someone if they tried talking to me while I was making that revision. *winks* All is fair in writing and revising, however. So, if only one or two people raised an issue with which I disagreed, I merrily passed it by, not even waving in my rear view mirror. When (not if) my fellow writers whose chapters I've reviewed disagree with my comments, they should philosophically run over my foot as they drive off, leaving my comments in the dust at my squashed shoe. I'd expect nothing less.

I can't thank these wonderful people enough: Laura, Airdale, Dezi, Tania, Vicky, Kurt, Ralene, Richard, Frankie, Mireyah, Annie, Dawn, and Ceri. Each of you have helped me make this novel better in so many ways. Thank you!!!

Now, I'm on to revision round #3! The good news is that I took care of step 1 already.

Revision Round #3 - Grammar and Dialog
  1. Judicious use of MS Word spell and grammar check. Correct as needed.
  2. Read the book out loud, or use tools like ReadPlease to read the book to me.
  3. Immediately fix the obvious grammatical issues.
  4. Immediately fix the horrendous dialog that the ear makes far more obvious than the eyeball.


Shannon O'Donnell said...

Great cartoon! I wish my revision strategies were that thorough, Jay! :-)

Jay said...

Thanks, Shannon. :-) This was the strategy I came up with after thinking about how I revised my last book.

Annie McMahon said...

Wow, you're already done with revision round #2? It would take me months to go through so many reviews. I'm impressed!

Thanks for the shout out. I'm glad I could help, even if just a little. I should read the rest of your chapters before you start querying. I always like to read a bestseller before the whole world discovers it. ;)

Jay said...

Don't be too impressed, Annie. Though it involved TOTAL concentration, it was also driven by a massive desire to get through it all!

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

I can so relate!!! I had two people read entirely through my 2nd draft of Altercation. Yet I haven't even touched that novel since then. I will be applying each and every review in a heavy-handed manner as soon as it's time for my third draft! Sure makes it easier than having to rely on my own judgment.