Have you seen that commercial? Where the guy, a big beefy guy, walks around the gym (I can't remember the name of the gym), and all he can say is "I pick things up and put them down" in an Ahnold accent?
I don't know why I chose that title - I first wrote "Tearing down and building up again" as the title, but that commercial jumped into my head, so I went with it. Anyway, that's what I'm talking about - revising. Revising is different than editing, different than polishing. More like Rewriting the Whole Dang Book.
About a month ago, I had a conversation with a really great editor at a big NYC house. He had read my WIP, and was giving me suggestions. Other people had told me things like "the voice didn't grab me", or "it just didn't work for me". I had gotten a really detailed agent rejection the week before - which, as rejections go, was like finding gold. And this editor, we talked for half an hour and I had a page full of notes, most of which required me to completely rip the book apart and rebuild it. "It's too old-fashioned." Which has a lot to do, I discovered, with balancing historical accuracy and modern sentiment. That's a whole other blog post.
Which sounds scary. And it was scary. It took me about a week to figure out how I was going to make it work. Parts of the story could stay, there are a few bits that haven't been completely rewritten - most people LOVE the first chapter, so that's stayed, with just a few tiny modifications. These revisions required a complete shift in the focus of the book. Once I found that, though, things seemed to fall into place. I have more action and a darker tone. My female MC is much spunkier. I've taken out what one person called 'the melodramatic slobbering" (and it was too - what WAS I thinking???).
The point is that sometimes you just HAVE to tear it all down and build it up again. The old version of the story was good, in that it was well-written and had a lot going for it. Even the agent who wrote the long rejection said there was a lot to like, and I've tried to keep all those bits. But in th end, it was quieter than I had originally intended, and I just needed a little direction to help me find where I went wrong.
I could have decided to not take any of their suggestions, stuck to my guns and decided that I liked it just the way it was. And I DID like it. There are writers out there who feel that anyone who makes suggestions must be trying to change their voice, or whatever. It's called Golden Word Syndrome, and I've fortunately never suffered from it. Many of those writers that do, well, they keep on stacking up rejections. Not that every editor is right, not that every suggestion is perfect, but it pays to listen and think about the advice, and then decide if it wouldn't be better to change it.
And this is the beauty of computers. I kept the old version, saved a new file, and was brave and tore it all apart and I'm building it up again. You know what?
I like it better now. It's not perfect yet, it'll need a little editing, and some polish, and the advice of some beta readers, before I send it back to that editor, but he'll see a whole new story.
Hope he likes it as much as I do.