Monday, April 14, 2014

Good Enough, or Great?

Revising is tough work.

I recently turned in my second round of edits for PLAY ON. For three weeks, I worked seemingly non-stop—I was awake at 4am, and went to bed at midnight. My kid ate frozen pizza three nights a week. There was a four-day stretch during which I didn't change my PJ pants and my hair went unwashed (GLAMOROUS, I tell ya). It’s a wonder that my poor laptop didn’t burst into flames. But I finished, and that’s what important, right? Right. Just never mind that my house looked like someone burglarized the place.

Since I started the editorial process, I’ve had quite a few people (all non-writers) ask me why I’ve had to do so much work on this story. They asked, “Wasn’t it good enough? It wouldn’t be published if it wasn’t good enough, right?”

Well, yeah. It was a good story—a darn good one, if I say so myself. But what they don’t realize is that revisions are a book’s best friend. And honestly, I don’t want my book to be “good enough.” Revisions turn a good book into something great.

“But Michelle,” you’re saying, “you don’t understand how much work my book needs. I’m terrified of screwing it all up.”

On the contrary—I know that feeling very, very well. I was absolutely terrified of ruining my book. But my editor is amazing, and she has these equally amazing lines in her edit letters that are exactly what I need to read (and are actually posted above my computer). One of my favorites, and one I need to remind myself of constantly, is to really dig in, and don’t be afraid of what’s there. You can’t be afraid to be creative. And sometimes, that creativity may require drastic measures.

A character adds nothing to the plot? She may need cutting.

A precious line just doesn’t seem to fit? Slash it.

You have so many subplots that your book looks more like a soap opera synopsis? One of them may need to go. (If you're like I was, you may think that lots of little subplots add depth. Sometimes, perhaps. Most of the time, they weigh your story down.)

There's something you're dead-set on keeping? You absolutely refuse to let a character go, or you'll fight tooth and nail over a line? Then you better make that sucker work. Everything needs a purpose.

All this may sound easier said than done. Sometimes it is, but you need to be open to trying new things. If those things don’t work, delete them and try again. The key here is that you have to try.

What it comes down to is this: Do you want a good story, or a great one? If your answer is great, then take a long, hard look at your manuscript. Dig into your world, into your characters, and consider the potential there. Don’t be afraid of change—that change may make all the difference.


  1. I'm seriously nodding my head and mumbling "Mmm-hmm..." while reading this. :) My laundry pile can attest to how much I'm relating right now! You give such a huge part of yourself to this process. And it's terrifying because there are no guarantees waiting at the end. There's never an absolute, right or wrong answer on how to proceed with revisions, just that you MUST. Great post Michelle!

  2. So many things in this blog resonated with me. I still think I have too many subplots in my last MS, and I think it was necessary for me to step away for a bit. When I look at it again, maybe I'll figure it out. Those one line darlings? I'm pleased to say I did finally ax them and it wasn't as painful as I'd feared. Great post, Michelle.

  3. "Everything needs a purpose." Love that line! Awesome post!!