Revision Decisions

I spent half an hour on Monday staring at the first paragraph of Baby Grand. I read it again and again until the words just seemed to suspend in air, not making any sense at all.

The revising process is an interesting one. After spending so much time just writing from my heart and about what drives me, stories that I find exciting, all of those external influences begin seeping in as you revise. Gosh, there’s so much pressure on the opening line of a novel alone. I’ve read magazines and blogs that highlight first lines, and as I read mine, I wondered: Is this any good? Would a magazine find this worthy enough to put in its pages?

Then I read further, and the questions poured in: Is this chapter meaningful? Is it a proper introduction to what comes next? Is it boring?

I reminded myself that my agent thoroughly enjoyed Baby Grand and that I should give myself a break and move on, but there was something that was nagging me about that opening paragraph. I wound up doing what first-time author Leah Crichton advised in yesterday’s Debut Author Q&A: I typed anyway. Changed words. Changed them back. Changed sentences. Changed them back. Changed until I was finally happy with the result, until I could sit back and read it and nod my head: Yes, this sounds right. I had to laugh, because, plot-wise, I hadn’t changed a thing. But there were new word choices. Better word choices. In the first paragraph and, soon, throughout the chapter.

But then Nervous Nellie reared her fretful head. Gosh, if it’s taking me more than an hour to go through a short opening chapter, that’s 60-plus hours for 60-plus chapters. At least! But I sent Nervous Nellie packing and reminded myself to just take it a paragraph at a time. Hour by hour. No different from when I was writing Baby Grand last summer and faced with blank pages along with that familiar looming deadline.

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8 thoughts on “Revision Decisions

  1. The first chapter is always the hardest to edit- whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. It’s well worth all the time and effort to get it exactly as you want it. I’m sure it won’t take you that long to work on the rest of it. Plus, you’re a wonderful editor. You’ll get into the swing of it with your “editor” hat on rather than “writer” and I know it will be wonderful! I can’t wait to read your book when it publishes! I’m reading Good Girls Don’t Get Fat right now :)

  2. Oh the first paragraph! That one drove me crazy! I made my original 3rd chapter my 1st chapter before I was satisfied…it was good to get it out of my hands..now I am back to blank white pages again..some days they are typed on and some days; oh well I try!
    I would suggest one page at a time and use a timer!

  3. Re-reading like that can send me into a blind panic. I love revisions and editing but those first few paragraphs sometimes get me so angst-ridden that I have to walk away. When I return (after an hour, a day, or even a week) the fresh approach lets me see it differently. Other times I leave the first chapter to revise later, and start at the second one. There is so much pressure on making a good first impression I think we can get hung up spending too much time refining it at the expense of not spending enough time on the rest of the story. I hope the rest of your revisions are easier.

  4. You can do it, Dina! You’re nearly there. So what if the final touches take another 60 hours? Settle in. Line up snacks and beverages. And give the kids the Domino’s hotline number.

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