Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ok, You Went To A Writing Conference...

You attended the annual conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (let’s say the New Jersey chapter which happened this past weekend). You’ve gotten a critique by an editor or agent, did a fast pitch to another agent, attended numerous workshops and panels. You chatted with published authors during lunch, dinner, or the social mixer, bought some autographed books, maybe had a peer review. You’re brimming with excitement and exhaustion.

What’s next?

You may think you should just jump right in and get to those revisions, even if there are contradictory ones. Quick, get it done before you lose the energy!


Some people are so energized and can quickly sort out all the information and suggestions they’ve gotten and get right to work. I was like that.

I’ve found a better way.

Wait it out.

Maybe two days, maybe a week, maybe until I figured out the exact changes to be made. I’ve learned to sift through everything I’ve taken in, absorb only the bits I need or want.

Just because someone tells you to change something doesn’t mean you should. Does it fit your story? (Would it still be great if the Alice in Alice in Wonderland was an Alex? If Dracula was gay? If your story is no longer recognizable?) There is a fine line between a good suggestion (change tense, make main character more likeable, ratchet up the tension between the ex girlfriend/boyfriend) and advice that doesn’t work for you (can you imagine how different The Fault in Our Stars would be if the girl lived?) These things have to be considered before you leap into the lake of revisions.

I find that allowing at least a day to mull over all the suggestions helps a bit. Go through your notes and theirs- cross out whatever is a total no-go (making your horror story a love story). Make a separate list of those things that are under consideration (changing the point of view from third to first person, from past tense to present, from multiple narrators to one or two, etc.) Then, make a list of the things that absolutely have to be done, like correcting grammar mistakes, adding sensory details, changing ‘telling’ into ‘showing.’ Take another day to work out how you’re going to make the necessary changes; will you have to eliminate a character or multiple scenes? Will you have to add more setting detail? Do you need more research?

Go through your ‘maybe’ list again, this time crossing out whatever you know now you’re not going to do, and putting the rest on the ‘must do’ list. Now you’re ready to tackle those revisions. It’s possible that you’re faster than most people in sorting and planning and changing. If you listened to the editors and the agents you talked with, they’ll probably all have told you not to rush; take your time, consider the advice. After all, they’ll wait for a good manuscript, and they’ll rush to reject a bad one.

Now that I’ve weeded all my gardens while I worked out a plot problem, I’m going to carefully and slowly make those revisions. My agent said she’d wait…

Good luck and good writing!


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