Wednesday, May 23, 2018

0 WoW: Lisa Brown Roberts on Revisions and Where the Magic Happens

Today for Writers on Writing Wednesdays, we're thrilled to welcome award-winning author, Lisa Brown Roberts, whose latest book SPIES, LIES & ALLIES was released earlier this month by Entangled Teen. Lisa is here to tackle what is a love/hate topic for many writers – revisions. After the post, find out more information about Lisa and her new book! But first, read about how Lisa learned to love revising with Track Changes.

Revisions: Where the Magic Happens – Or How I Learned to Embrace Track Changes
by Lisa Brown Roberts

“I think the hard work of writing is just how long a book is terrible before it's good.” ― Leigh Bardugo

Revision’s one of those “ugh” topics, but I hope I can share some things I’ve learned that will help others. I don’t want to freak out new writers or make it sound like I know everything because believe me, I don’t. Revising is difficult, yes, but also transformative. Revision is when you dig in and find the heart of your story, when you make dialog sparkle, when you add layers of nuance, and discover that your subconscious planted hints and foreshadowing you didn’t even know about!

Aspiring writers hear over and over that they can’t edit a blank page, that they need to put their butts in chair and hands on keyboard (BICHOK), that finishing something- anything!- is the goal. All of which is true. When I was first chasing the writing dream, I started lots and lots of books, but finished none of them. It’s a common theme among writers – the shiny new idea that beckons like a siren’s call, distracting you from the mushy middle of your current project.

When aspiring writers ask me how to push through and finish a book, my advice is to write the first draft quickly without stopping to edit. That’s what works for me and YMMV, but I think it’s worth trying, especially if you’ve never finished a project. Typing “The End” is empowering and confidence-building. Celebrate your accomplishment – you finished a first draft! I keep a supply of mini bottles of Prosecco in my fridge for this very reason.

“I am hard at work on the second draft ... Second draft is really a misnomer as there are a gazillion revisions, large and small, that go into the writing of a book.” ― Libba Bray

I was in a serious critique group for ten years. We critiqued finished products- everything from picture books to novels. Most of the members were published, and wow, did I grow a thick skin. We mostly followed the “love sandwich” critique process, though not always. I learned just as much from my friends’ critiques as I did from my own. Sometimes there were tears and hurt feelings. Sometimes I didn’t want to go. And yeah, I learned A LOT. And it hurt. And pushed me. And brought me from aspiring newbie to multi-published.

That thick skin I grew in my critique group came in handy when my first book was contracted and I went through my first experience of the three-pass editing process with my publisher. I won’t lie- it was overwhelming and somewhat soul-crushing, and I found myself repeatedly wondering if I had the chops to do this writing thing professionally.

My editor is brilliant and blunt, and pushes me hard. We’ve done five books together; some revisions were relatively painless and some were brutal. I’ve learned to trust her instincts because in every single book she spots something none of my critique partners caught, and when I fix that “something” it makes the book so much better. I’ve also learned to trust my own instincts when my gut tells me a suggested change won’t work.

If there’s one thing I hope you take away from this, it’s that you and your editor (or critique partners) have the same end goal: to make the book as good as it can be. When I’m overwhelmed by the scope of my revisions, I remind myself that my editor and I both want to create a fantastic story that readers will love and booksellers can sell.

The good news is, the more you revise, the easier it gets – maybe not the actual process, but the mental piece in which you remind yourself that you’ve done this before and you can do it again. With each book, you strengthen your revision muscle and thicken your skin. No matter how daunting that first pass letter is from your editor, you know you can do this, and that the end result will be worth it.

So maybe it’s not magic, but once your book has gone through multiple revisions and you hold the final product in your hot little hands, it does feel like you’re a bit of a magician. That shiny cover wrapped around your fabulous words makes all the weeping and gnashing of teeth and hair yanking and whining to your writer friends worth it.

Summers are supposed to be fun, right? Not mine. I’ve got a job at my dad’s company, which is sponsoring a college scholarship competition. I just found out that, in addition to my job assisting the competing interns, I’m supposed to vote for the winner. Totally not what I signed up for.

My boss is running the competition like it’s an episode of Survivor. Then there’s Carlos, who is, well, very distracting––in a good way. But I can’t even think about him like that because fraternizing on the job means instant disqualification for the intern involved.

As if that’s not enough, an anonymous informant with insider intel is trying to sabotage my dad’s company on social media...and I’m afraid it's working.

Much as I’d love to quit, I can’t. Kristoffs Never Quit is our family motto. I just hope there’s more than one survivor by the end of this summer.

Buy it now:

About Lisa Brown Roberts
Lisa Brown Roberts’ award-winning YA romantic comedies have earned praise from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. Her latest book, SPIES, LIES & ALLIES, released 5/1/2018 from Entangled Teen. She occasionally emerges from her fiction-writing fog to forage for chocolate and spend time with her family, in which pets outnumber people.

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