Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mentor for the Month: Stephen King, Part 3: Revision Time

“Now let’s say you’ve finished your first draft….You’ve done a lot of work and you need a period of time (how much or little depends on the individual writer) to rest. Your mind and imagination—two things which are related, but not really the same—have to recycle themselves, at least in regard to this one particular work.” Stephen King, On Writing

Space. Distance. Time.

Now that I’m approaching the end of FJR’s rough draft I’m having flashbacks to the first novel I finished (in rough draft form). Intimidation? You betcha. That monster is about 600 pages long and it needs to be about half that size.

Deb recently asked about what to do when you want to throw your book across the room, out the window, down the street, and into the harbor…okay I added the last couple bits with some help from Finding Nemo.

My answer: wait, grasshopper—is greatly inspired by my first novel experience. I wrote that book definitely thinking it was my “big break.” There would be advances and accolades. Life would be good. I had no idea how much work it would be to revise that whole damn thing. When I began the initial revising (without waiting, yes, initially I blew off the mentor’s advice…) I hated the stupid story, the stupid characters, the stupid stupidity of the whole mess. So I boxed the dumb thing, went to college so that I had to read and write a ton of stuff that had nothing to do with the novel. Wrote a bunch of short stories and poems. After two years, years (!), I looked at it again.

It was less scary. There were scenes that definitely needed to be there to tell the story. The rest was (I should say is because I haven’t really revised it yet either) just extra stuff that needs to be cut out. I made a list of important scenes and, one day, if I decide that it’s worth revising and not just a ‘practice novel’, I’ll have a great place to start.

Things I learned from that sorta-revising process? How to streamline scenes. The novel I’m about to finish is much shorter…maybe I’ve overcompensated? We’ll see. And I learned that I need time.

When the first draft is finished, I plan to hand it out to my first reader gang, but I refuse to talk about it, or read their actual critiques, until at least March. That’s more than King’s recommended six weeks but I’m not as experienced as him. It’s just fact. I need a little more distance so that when the time comes, I’ll be ready to fix what needs to be fixed in a creative, good kinda way.


  1. It's been a heap long time since last I seriously set out on a novel--not including my NaNo, which doesn't count, and was a long time anyway. I think I'll go start a novel now.

    Wish me luck.

    (When I say start, I mean start outlining The Palsgrave Latticework. Don't panic.)

  2. I think you should skip outlining and just plunge on in. I'm sure we'll talk more about that soon... ;)

  3. Mentore Lady has spoken!

    Now get out of the way! I have a high dive and a teaspoon of fantastical idealism, and I know what to do with them.

  4. That's the spirit, my protege!

    Get to it! (But don't yourself or others...for those reading, do not attempt this at home...)


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