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My revision process

Call me crazy, but I don't go back and revise a book manuscript until I've written an entirely new book.

Revision is the hardest part of the process for me, mainly, I think, because I get so married to what I've written. I find I can't really come back to a manuscript and give it the treatment it deserves until I've almost completely purged the thought process that brought it to me from my head. For me, that entails writing a new book.

For me, it's so much easier to approach an older manuscript with fresh eyes if your memory of it is fuzzy. You're able to look at it and find the things you wrote that took you by surprise. You can detach yourself and your ego from the piece and really see the problems, but also really see what works.

Besides that, the only thing that makes you a better writer is more writing and more reading. So if you go back and revise a previous book after you've written a new one and read a dozen more, you'll be much more aware of the problems old-you had in your writing. You'll learn so many things trying something slightly more ambitious every time you set out to write a book that it will make that last book that much better.

The most important thing we can do as writers is to learn. Every book we read, we should look for one thing in our own writing we can do better. Every sentence we write, we should look for the next sentence to be even better. And the hope is that every book is an improvement on the last.

When you attack a manuscript like this, on the heels of the next one, not only are you a better writer, your head is much clearer. As we write, we get wrapped up in the words we use, we get wrapped up in the pacing, we get wrapped up in the characters. Hell, by the time I'm reaching the end of a book, I'm so wrapped up in just trying to finish that I can't even stand up. When you look at those words that first time, right after writing "The End" for the first time, all you can see is the work. But giving yourself that space and perspective before coming back to it removes the baggage. You're able to better focus on honing the characters, the pacing, the story, etc.

But maybe that's just me. I tend to start a book and finish it no matter what, even if I'm only adding 30 or 40 words a day to it.

I've read that the Coen Brothers wrote "The Big Lebowski" over a number of stretches, writing themselves into a corner and then leaving it in a drawer for a long time while they worked on something else. Then they'd pick it up, write themselves into another corner and drop it again. They did this over and over again until they had a draft of their script. It's the same theory, but I'm not quite sure it would work for me, breaking up a story like that.

Maybe you have to stay hyper-focused on your project and simply can't take the time to write another manuscript or you'll lose it completely. I did an interview with Max Allan Collins for this space and he told me about Mickey Spillane's process:
MAC:  [Mickey Spillane] was a guy with a lot of enthusiasm and if he lost his enthusiasm on one story, if he got distracted, he often wrote books in 9 days or 2 weeks, but if he had to stop and go do promotion or something of if he got another idea for a different story he would drop it and just go do the other story. Some of it had to do with the fact that he would say “I’ll get back to this another day” but it was hard for him to get back to something. He did things in the white heat of enthusiasm and if he lost that, he would just start something new.
And that can make sense to you for, I suppose. 

That's the other part of writing: you have to learn what works best for you. What's right for me might not be right for you, but the reason I love reading posts like this from other authors is to see what I can adapt into the process that works for me.

Try it my way once. If you don't like it, worst case scenario, you're sitting on two completed manuscripts. Best case scenario, they're two awesome manuscripts.

As far as my writing this week, I've been working on rewriting and revising the ending of The Aeronaut, which, I believe, is still slated for a July release. I also worked on some pitches for some magazines and other websites. I've also been pretty busy for Big Shiny Robot! and Full of Sith. 

And don't forget to check out any of my books, drop reviews of them on Amazon or Goodreads, and follow me on twitter and Facebook!


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