Tag Archive for: revisions

Lost in the Jungles of Final Revision

by Linda Rodriguez
in the throes of final revisions. Toss me a lifeline. Or at least
some really fine imported dark chocolate.
are several times when writing a novel is no fun. The first is the
middle of the book. Middles are always sucky. There’s no way around
swamps that you just have to wade through, never being able to see
more than a few inches ahead and full of traps, quicksand, and
dangerous predators.
writer I know—and some of them are multiple NYT bestsellers—hates
herself or himself and the book while in the middle. Once you emerge
into the end, the pace steps up, your excitement returns, and you
stop feeling your book is horrible and deformed. By the last page,
you’re in love with it again.
the first read-through and the revisions that come from that, you see
problems, but it all looks fixable, and you’re stunned at how
basically good the book actually is—or has the potential to be.
Your beta reader told you about things that need work, but also said
the book was going to be great. So you wade in and start hacking this
off here and moving it over there, cutting out these and adding that,
beefing up this character and toning down that one. You feel like
you’re doing good work.
you start on the final revision. This is not the last editing your
book will get, of course. You’ll do line edits and proof it before
sending it off to agent and editor where they will find new things
that need fixing, and you’ll love them for it. This is just the
final big structural revision before it goes out to others because
anything else will need another good eye. (Every writer needs at
least one good editor, no matter how good a writer and editor she is
is where you’re making all the major and difficult changes that you
left for later because they were major and difficult. This is where
you’re honing theme and correcting pacing and making sure you use
all the senses throughout and that you keep the reader engaged all
the time.
is where you hack your way into the jungle of book with a mental
picture of how you’ll carve out a gorgeous estate with a palatial
residence, and then you get lost, and your bearers run off with the
last of your food and water. You have to keep moving because if you
don’t, you will sit down and cry as you starve to death.
is where I am right now. I have come through this before. I know I
will again. I continue repeating this mantra to myself as I keep
cutting a path for myself. It’s not that I hate the book, as in the
sucky middle. This time it’s that I’m afraid I’ll… Let. The.
Book. Down.

I’ve promised to have this done and send the book off, and I have
to make it something good enough to send. I think I’ll have my
husband take me out for dinner, and I’ll buy some luscious imported
chocolate. And tomorrow, I’ll head back into the jungle of final

Linda Rodriguez’s Plotting the
Character-Driven Novel,
based on her popular workshop, and The
World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East
an anthology she co-edited, are her newest books. Every Family
, her fourth mystery novel featuring Cherokee campus police
chief, Skeet Bannion, will appear January 17, 2018. Her three earlier
Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust,
and Every Last Secret—and
her books of poetry—Skin Hunger
and Heart’s Migration—have
received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin’s
Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International
Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices
& Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and
Ragdale and Macondo fellowships.
Her short story, “The Good
Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has
been optioned for film.

Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP
Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter
of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers
Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International
Thriller Writers, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and
Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Visit her at

Stroking the Muse

By Laura Spinella

Dear Inner Muse,

It’s been a rough month. The cat died, and those pesky kids, as you refer to them, do require an occasional glance on my part. I know how much you loathe reality writing, (aka cash in exchange for the F-word… freelance writing) but I don’t see much choice in the matter. I understand that you’re currently annoyed with me. But do you think you could ease up and cut me some slack?

It all goes back to that nasty confrontation. You know, when I asked you to get on board flipping THE IT FACTOR, our 114,000 word creation, from an alternating first/third-person narrative to strictly third-person. I appreciated your hesitation: you are in charge. I get it. Since when do I take massive third-party advice and go against the Muse? But, seriously, she is our agent. You’re right, I’ve no idea if she possesses an Inner Muse, but I can tell you that she does have missile-like radar when it comes to what works and what doesn’t. Frankly, I think we’d be idiots not to listen.

I know; I heard your warning, not to mention the persnickety mirth when I explained what we needed to do. Quote: “Are you insane? Do you have any idea how much effort it took to coerce and cajole your sad little prose into a viable story? Most of that book is written in first-person. You might as well start translating War and Peace into Pig Latin, because that’s pretty much what you’re asking.”

If I can say, I think you were overstating just a tad. Granted, it’s not been a breeze. The shift from first to third is a domino effect, changing sentence structure and voice. Simple words that fit in first-person are left lost and out of place when read in third. Of course, matters were further complicated when you suggested kicking the plot up a notch. Don’t deny it; I was there. “Gosh, while we have the thing wide open here, wouldn’t it be great if Isabel’s feelings were less obvious from the beginning? And if Aidan and Anne had a past, well, that would heighten the conflict.” These, dear Muse, were not my ideas but yours. I’m not saying they weren’t good. I’m only asking if we can see our way clear to wrapping things up soon. Like, say, before technology figures out how to imprint books directly onto readers’ brains, thus subjugating the need for printed words. I know nothing as pedestrian as profit interests you, but certainly my take on that format would be about –12 cents a copy. BTW, Muse, did you know there’s no cent sign on this keyboard?

I digress. The bottom line is we’ve been going at it full throttle for weeks. I hear it. I feel it, that same rhythm we had while writing BEAUTIFUL DISASTER. You remember, you tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hey, I know a guy. He’s got a hell of a story if you’re interested…” We’re doing that again. We’re almost there. So if you could loosen the reins a bit, I’d appreciate it. I fear if this keeps up, one of us won’t make it out alive, and I’d really hate for it to be me.

Your Ardent & Faithful Servant,

Laura Spinella

PS–Love you, Ted! Best cat that ever lived to toss a hairball!

Fingers crossed if you can, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER is a finalist for NJRWA Golden Leaf Contest, winners announced next week! You can always find me on FB  http://www.facebook.com/BeautifulDisasterANovel or at http://www.laurapsinella.net/  Have you read BEAUTIFUL DISASTER yet?