The Beast That Is Revision

Last year, when Katie and I attended the SCBWI NYC Winter Conference, we both attended sessions with Cheryl Klein, an editor with Arthur A. Levine Books (a Scholastic imprint). Ms. Klein guided each session through the steps of re-visioning your manuscript. Afterwards, Katie and I commented that this session was especially helpful because it was so specific — we left armed with a to-do lists of exercises that would help us evaluate our stories, find their essences, and move forward towards making them shine. I came home from New York energized and ready to edit.

To be honest, it’s taken me some time to get to some of Ms. Klein’s list. You know, life happened. I wrote a new manuscript (who needs revision when you’re finding the words for the first time?). My son stopped daycare for the summer (bye-bye writing days). We were on the road for four weeks (why don’t we live in Canada?).

But now I’ve picked up Ms. Klein’s book, and I’m raring to go. Her book, Second Sight: An Editor’s Guide to Writing, Revisions, & Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults, is a collection of talks and reflections. After first skimming the book and now starting it from the beginning, I know there will be some great kernels of advice — some repeats from the conference, and others new.

My favorite tidbit from the first chapter is about emotion. A good book, Klein says, “creates a deliberate emotion.” This, I think, is something that gets developed mostly in revision. Deliberate emotionWhen I’m writing a first draft, I just plow through, to get something workable onto the page. Then, in revision, I can question what emotion I’m striving for, look at each sentence or word (if I’m having a good day) to see if it works.

The biggest challenge for me will be figuring out where to start and how to follow through with her suggestions. With three manuscripts in revision, it can be difficult to give each one enough time before my mind wanders into plot development of another. Yes, that can help keep each story fresh, but sometimes I can let one burn, so to speak, while stirring another.  And at this point, I’m very good at making a beast of a to-do list of plot holes to develop, characters to strengthen, and new chapters to write. It’s finding a methodical way to take down said beast that tricks me.

What about you? Have you found resources for revision that inspire you? How do you keep revision on track and in hand?

You can find more information about Cheryl Klein and her book here.


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