Part 1: Revision, Revision, Revision

“(Working Title) has serious problems with structure and storytelling, it isn’t yet an effective novel.” Peter Gelfan sent this to me in an email back in 2007.  With that he essentially told me thanks and have a nice day.

Revision, revision, revision~

He had mentioned something positive about voice, ideas, and dialogue, but then he wrote, “There’s no plot.”

Plot? Wait–I had things happen, fun things, awful things, surprising things, and humorous things.  Wasn’t that good enough?

Peter first got into my head when I used Google to find Renni Browne’s  editorial company.  Because I’d practically kept her book under my pillow, I wanted to know if she had anything more to add to my education.  Wow! Did she ever. She’s the president of The Editorial Department and Peter is one of her many talented editors.  Actually, Peter is a genius disguised as an editor.

He said I could phone him, so I did. “But Peter,” I said, “Rennie’s book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers doesn’t tell how to develop a plot.”  Of course I have many books on how to write, one even touched on plot development, but with all the exciting things going on in my story, did I really need a structure for plot?

I’m a wee bit stubborn. I told him I didn’t want to give up on this manuscript.

I wondered if he sighed, if he rolled his eyes, if he slapped his forehead, and maybe his finger was on the “hang-up” button.  But he stayed with me for five years until he turned my work over to Renni last year.  He first told me to cut out two of the stories within the main one, and learn how to structure my plot. This process would take a total rewrite, not just tweaking.  He said we were talking months and months (it’s been years and years).

What I learned at this point:

1. A published first novel doesn’t equal a first book. It’s one book revised many times.

2.Writing a book has to be a labor of love (Peter’s words) because any other reason is crazy (my words).

3.A writer doesn’t know what they don’t know, so a good editor is imperative.

Comparing is fun, don’t you think? What are your revision experiences?

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About Char of inkydancestudios

Writer by nature and for the soul. Educator for life. Artist for love. Passion: All things good and true.
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4 Responses to Part 1: Revision, Revision, Revision

  1. Oh, dear girl!! What I know about revisions could fill several pages, but it still wouldn’t replace the experience of doing it! As you well know, we’ve been through this together so many times, and I hope we continue on indefinitely (although please, God, let me move on to revising another, different book!)


    • Did you notice the “Part 1” thing–yep! Many pages. I love your being ready for another book to revise. We’re masochist, right? I really appreciate your comments, thanks for stopping by.


  2. PlanetJane says:

    Dang it! Don’t you just hate it when Peter just goes on being right all the time?

    I cannot tell you how much I’ve learned about writing from working with him for three and a half years and reading his reports. The only novel I ever completed was a mystery I was very proud of 13 years ago when I finished it. Two years after coming to work at The Editorial Department in 2009, I knew it had no redeeming qualities whatsoever and was instead full of every amateur mistake in the book: it began with pages and pages of backstory, it was far too talky, it over-explained, and above all, it had enormous plot holes. Which I knew, but in my egomaniacal naivete, I actually thought my writing was so brilliant NO ONE WOULD NOTICE.

    If I’d known about TED and Peter back then, I’d have been grateful for the cold water of reality he no doubt would have thrown on me. Well, after I finished cussing him out and railing that he clearly didn’t understand what I was trying to do (which is what 99% of all authors say when you tell them they don’t have a workable plot). But after the rending of garments I’d have thanked him for not letting me go out in the world with such a bad novel.

    Editors save us from ourselves.


  3. Well, said, Jane. I certainly needed saving. I told Peter one of the reasons I selected The Editorial Department was because I knew I could trust their honesty. I’m quite thankful he was willing to work with me. Last thing any of us wants is to be embarrassed because of our incompetent writing knowledge. Renni and Shannon aren’t shy about nailing me for flaws either. What an education–if nothing else happens, this ride’s been worth it. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. P.S. I love your water colors. I didn’t know you painted.


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