Wallow, Then Get Back To Earning The Cookies

I’m going to have to write the Battle of Pelennor Sunroom next week. This week’s just not conducive to sitting down and telling a really embarrassing story about a squirrel loose in my house.

What can I tell you? I’m hard at work on the next Bannon & Clare book; there are revisions for a brand-new YA sitting in my inbox, I am turning in eleven-minute miles. The revisions…well, I’m in the week after receiving the edit letter where I am just processing. I think I’ve written about it before–when I get an edit letter, I open it up and read. Then, I cry. I scream. I fling the pages across the room, I stamp, and I basically have a little hissy.

Look, I’m admitting it out loud. This is part of the process.

I get that out of the way, then I put the pages in a drawer and make a note in my calendar to come back in a week. Then I walk away. I bitch to my writing partner, who (having done this before) nods sagely and pours me a cuppa. I bitch to the walls while I’m taking a shower. I bitch while I’m running. That usually lasts about a day.

Then…I do my best to forget the damn thing exists.

A week later, I see my calendar, wince, and pull the pages out. I take a deep breath and put on my big-girl panties. Then I read the damn thing again.

And you know, this reading is much better. “Oh…hmmm, I suppose that is a plot hole. Yeah, and that’s a good idea too. Well, I won’t solve the problem that way, but the editor’s right, it is a problem, and I can solve it this other way, which will also solve that. Huh. That’s good feedback too…oh, hey, that came through! Awesome. All right. Well, this is doable. It isn’t as bad as I thought.”

I build that week’s worth of crying, bitching, and forgetting into the revision schedule for every book. Every time I get an edit letter, I give myself that week. I let the editor know they won’t hear from me during that week, that I need that time to process, and that I would really, really appreciate that time built into production schedule. 99% of the time, the editor understands, and is relieved that I have an actual process that I can tell them, reliably, works. (Once or twice I’ve had to compress that time because of tight turnaround schedules; in that case, I give myself a day or so, as much as I can. And I grin and bitch and bear it.)

So, you know all that. But these are the things I do NOT do when I get a revision letter:

I do not blog specifics about how much I hate the revision letter. I do not bitch about it on Twitter or Facebook. I don’t call my editor during that week to blow off steam. I don’t call my agent to complain. I do not bitch to people who are not prepared to hear me do this, who have not been warned, or who are untrustworthy. I don’t use it as an excuse to stop turning in wordcount on the project I’m zero-drafting. I don’t use it as an excuse to be short-tempered with friends, family, or the dog.

I do occasionally get into a blue funk thinking that the revision letter means everything I’ve ever written is crap, but you know, that masochistic little feeling will come around no matter what. If it’s not triggered by revisions it’ll be triggered by bad reviews, hormones, a bad day, or who-knows-what. The only cure I’ve found is to accept that feeling when it comes, buckle one’s bootstraps, and say it may be crap, but it’s my crap, and it’s not going to be unfinished crap. So there. And then get back to work.

Every writer’s revision process is going to be different. The key thing is to get some experience and figure out what that process is, be reasonable in what you ask for in terms of time and resources to get through it, and give yourself at least a day’s worth of breathing time to wallow in just how meeeeeeean and unfaaaaaair it all is. Set a time limit and wallow like you mean it. Get it all out of your system so you can go back to work telling stories, polishing your craft, and earning your goddamn cookies.

Mmmh, cookies. Baking is a good way to distract oneself during the processing time, too. But that’s (say it with me) another blog post.

Over and out.

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