Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

One of the absolute hardest things in writing is struggling with self-doubt. It might make you delete everything you write, becuase you're sure its crap. Or it might make you close the program all together and just not want to look at it.

This feeling is universal. If you're writing your first book, you worry you dont have what it takes. If you're writing your second, third, fourth book but you're unpublished, you worry its all a waste of time. You'll read published books and compare them to yours, and despair even more, becuase you dont feel yours can possibly measure up.

It won't disapear just becuase you've sold a book. In fact, it might get worse. Because you'll look at the total-piece-of-junk you think you're writing, and then you'll go to your shelf and you'll pick up your published book. And somehow your mind will blot out those months you spent with the guidance of an agent, an editor, a copy editor, a proof-reader.....

And you'll compare the rough first draft to the polished book, and the doubts will creep in again.

One of the interestings things about being both an author and an agent is that sometimes my clients ask me questions that relate more to my writer side. Recently a client emailed me to ask what exactly goes into revisions. What an editorial letter looks like, and whether an editor really can whip your book into shape.

So, since said Client had just read YOU WISH, I emailed her my revision letter for YOU WISH toi her, so that she could see the sorts of things I had to do to shape the book.

I thought I might share with you guys some random lines from my PRADA & PREJUDICE editorial letter. The 11 page bohemoth that taught me how to be a better writer/reviser.

Here are some things I had to do to make PRADA & PREJUDICE a better book. They should be vague/minor enough that they don't spoil if it you haven't already read it: 

 -Callie’s klutziness is super funny and great. I’d love it if you could work in her back story a tad more. It’s so good at the beginning, with all the stuff about Trish Marks and Katie and her mom not wanting her to go on the trip. Can you bring in more substance from her past throughout the book? 

-Work on your descriptiveness. In some places you are spot on. In some places I’d like more specific details of setting. 

-Need to BUILD the tension between Callie & Alex. Right now it sometimes wavers, rather than increasing. 

-We also need more instances of Callie asserting modern notions that intrigue but anger Alex—so we can track his feelings for her as they evolve.

-All characters can always use more specification and depth. But we especially need a better sense of Victoria throughout. Also more “seeding”: for instance, planting very early on that Emily is good at fashion. You sort of hint at this already, so we’re on our way.

--Here I’d just like to see a bit more emotional tracking—really chart Callie’s feelings from disorientation to confusion to nervousness to sheer panic and finally to the feeling that she’s lost her mind completely. 

--Trace the thread of Callie wanting to get back home through the whole book, and the fear of being caught out on her lie before she can do so. The tension around her lie about being Rebecca needs to peak—so [REDACTED FOR SPOILERY REASONS]

--Let’s see the house in even more detail now that she’s slept in it. She needs to wake with the feeling that she needs to get out—NOW. She’s calmed down from the night before, but only slightly.

--Can we set the breakfast scene somewhere else? Not necessary to show so many mealtimes

--I love when Callie has to hide behind the couch. But I feel we’re missing an opportunity here to have her actually discover something she shouldn’t. 

--This chapter (as I’ve cut it from chapter 3 and turned the end half into ch.5—see the ms) needs to do more. Don’t forget she wants to get home this whole time and is frantically looking for a way. 

So... this is just a fraction of the letter (much of it deals with specific plot points...) but you can see that the letter addresses a lot of key things: holes in the logic, missing description, flat characters, etc.

And above all that, it asks questions. An editorial letter makes you stand back and see your book as a whole for the first time. It makes you wonder why you wrote something a particular way, or why you put those two chapters together, why that character is neccessary, etc.

By the time you've completed your edits, your book has evolved. It's changed and taken shape.

After revisions, your book will have line edits, copy edits, and probably a few rounds of proofreads.

The book you read on shelves was NOT that pretty to begin with. It evolved into a polished book.

But it started with a crappy, hole-filled first draft. So the next time you despair, just remember: as soon as you finish that swiss-cheese first draft, you can go back and begin to shape it. And with a little luck, you'll have great critique partners to point out the holes. And an agent who will ask the right questions, and an editor who won't cut you any slack.

That's why my first draft motto is:

Don't get it right. Get it written.



( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 15th, 2010 06:06 pm (UTC)
Getting it written is eating up most of my creative time right now, although I'm still trying to work past the writer's road block that's been bugging me for a while now. I've got a few friends who are actings as my amateur part time editors right now. I let them check the work-in-progress now and then and they give honest criticism which has worked wonders for me already. Now, if only they could jump over the ocean and barge in to disconnect my net connection whenever I start to procrastinate...
Sep. 15th, 2010 06:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
I needed this post BADLY! Just yesterday I had this overwhelming feeling that I was crazy for trying, that my MS was lame and that I needed to put my back to it and walk away. (That only worked for a few hours until I hit the edits again last night) But yes, the feeling is there and your post just validated my feelings. Can't thank you enough!!
Anthony L. Isom
Sep. 15th, 2010 06:14 pm (UTC)
This is a fantastic blog post! I'm in love with that motto: Don't get it right. Get it written. It's EXACTLY what I needed to hear (read?) right now. Thanks!
Sep. 15th, 2010 06:17 pm (UTC)
Loved this! Just what I needed to hear - Thanks! *goes back to getting it written*
Heather McCorkle
Sep. 15th, 2010 06:22 pm (UTC)
That is awesome! Thank you so much for sharing this. My inspiration and determination is renewed!
Sep. 15th, 2010 06:47 pm (UTC)
I love behind-the-scenes skinny. Great post, Mandy. :)
Sarah Stevenson
Sep. 15th, 2010 09:04 pm (UTC)
It's fascinating to see what other writers' editorial direction looks like. Thanks for sharing!

For myself, I really learned a ton from the editorial comments on my upcoming novel, which is my first published YA book. I feel so much better equipped for revising future projects now! It's amazing what advice a good editor can provide.
Sep. 15th, 2010 09:07 pm (UTC)
Don't get it right. Get it written.
I just dug out a white 3x5 index card and a black Sharpie to capture that quote and put it eye level with my lap top. Thanks!

Very helpful encouragement!
Sep. 15th, 2010 10:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
This post was exactly what I needed to hear today. Your motto is hereby plastered across the top of my laptop.
Sep. 16th, 2010 12:09 pm (UTC)
I wish more people admitted that they thought their writing was crap at some point. (And even pubbed authors have the same doubt) I think it would make all us aspiring writers feel a lot better about spewing garbage onto the page! :)

People always quote Nora Roberts (And I hope she really said it!) That you can't edit a blank page. I try to remember that when I look back over my words and cringe. They can be moved, changed and polished, but if it's only blank space, there is nothing to fix.

So glad you posted this! :)
Sep. 16th, 2010 01:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for posting this. I've searched the internet for stuff like this and I can never find anything helpful. I don't feel so terrible now. Back to writing!
Sep. 16th, 2010 08:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for sharing this, Mandy. Such an eye-opener.

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse
Sep. 16th, 2010 11:28 pm (UTC)
Moar TSaR Hype
User armithgreenleaf referenced to your post from Moar TSaR Hype saying: [...] ntinuation (and yes, I'm well aware I'm the only one pumped up about the story, thus making my constant excited ramblings about it look lame as hell.) Alright, so that's different this time? I can't seem to write a relatively short story to save my life; Heavenbound is a behemoth of 204k words, Everybody Wants Ryan is 146k words long and my shortest so far is Changing Madeline with 123k. I want to bring the word count even lower with TSaR (but I know I'll probably fail), so I'm aiming for 100k words. So I bring you this: 37510 / 100000 words. 38% done! This is TSaR's current status, and I'll be updating it whenever I get some writing done. I'm hoping this will help to motivate me even moar (imagine the feeling of hitting the goal!), so I will do like Mandy Hubbard said in this post [...]
Sep. 17th, 2010 08:06 am (UTC)
Great motto!

I seem to only be able to complete drafts with the help of Nanowrimo. And that's just because you've no time to worry about how bad it is.
Sep. 17th, 2010 08:12 am (UTC)
Field Trip Friday: September 17
User yahighway referenced to your post from Field Trip Friday: September 17 saying: [...] t Nathan Bransford warns against letting your dreams take over your reasonable expectations. - Author Amy Lukavics shares the evolution of her (eventually successful) query. - Don't have time to write? Yes you do. You're never as busy as you think you are. Mandy Hubbard describes how she finds the time. She also shares some editorial notes from her own books, and says "Don't get it right. Just get it written [...]
Sep. 17th, 2010 12:32 pm (UTC)
Wow! Thanks for posting this, it gives me a much better idea of what to expect if I ever make it this far in the publishing process! It's quite daunting to think of how far my first draft still has to go to really be finished! :)
Sep. 17th, 2010 05:54 pm (UTC)
This is awesome advice! Especially as I begin wrapping up the first draft of my own piece of swiss cheese. Thanks!
Sep. 17th, 2010 09:30 pm (UTC)
Hello hello, dropping by!

You know, you can write a whole entry about self-doubt and all the problems that come with it. That bugger hit me hard this year--for multiple reasons--all leading me to think I sucked (plus feeling hefty amounts of envy.) Fortunately I'm like bad weed and I 'grew' all over again! ;D

Anyway, I agree whole heartedly with:

Don't get it right. Get it written.

I've never had huge trouble with editing getting in the way of writing, but I have steadily gotten more and more perfectionist the more I learn about the art and science of writing. Result? I take much longer to write a chapter than I used to, and in the end writing a whole story takes longer (went from one month and a half to nine months to write only one!) I say fuck it! You're right, writing and editing times should be different (and the writer has to be as dedicated for each one.) I know a lot of people who can benefit from this advice. :D

Ah, the joys of second, third, fourth drafts and so.

Thank you!
Sep. 18th, 2010 04:52 pm (UTC)
Friday Favorites
User an_ortega referenced to your post from Friday Favorites saying: [...] es as our group heads out for the San Diego event this Tuesday. This week we introduced you to the great wisdom of Deborah Halverson.  Ask her advice on one of our new favorite blogs, Dear-Editor.com Last week we introduced you to great on-line resource for emotion and setting. Here’s a similar resource. Is your main character depressed? Anxious? Grieving? A licensed therapist tells us what those look like in real life at The Character Therapist. Does your character get herself into trouble? Does he sit back and let the world happen to him? Are they growing? Miss Snark looks at the dangers of an inactive hero in “On the Do-Nothing Hero and Why He Kills Your Story.” We’ve read at length about the frustrations of revisions. Mandy Hubbard gives us a peek into her emotional revision journey and even shows us actual notes from her editor in “ [...]
Sep. 20th, 2010 04:50 pm (UTC)
Monday Mix, September 20
User ariannasterling referenced to your post from Monday Mix, September 20 saying: [...] and getting it written [...]
Sep. 24th, 2010 04:45 pm (UTC)
SO right.
You just spoke to me. I need to get it wriiten, not get it right.

Sep. 24th, 2010 06:54 pm (UTC)
I normally don't post on interactive blogs. I don't know why. Usually I'm not feeling compelled. But today's post is so fabulous; just the right-sized slice of self help served to the writer who, sometimes, drown in perfectionism and self-loathing. There was a quote mentioned on Twitter this week. I can't remember it verbatim, but to paraphrase: Easy reading is hard writing.
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Free Twitter buttons from languageisavirus.com

The Latest News:

New Deal: Imogen Howson's LINKED sells to S&S BFYR, in a two book pre-empt for six figures.

You Wish is in its Fifth Printing! and Prada and Prejudice is in its Sixth Printing!

New deal: Jessica Martinez' VIRTUOSITY sells to Simon Pulse, at Auction, in a 2 book deal.




site stats