Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Revision

by Hilde Garcia
The worst part, my process, my visions of grandeur.

A friend called me eighteen years ago and said, “I have a proposition for you.  You write a book, I’ll illustrate it, we’ll split the profits 50/50.”  I said, “Sure,” and banged out a picture book draft that night.  I called her back the next day and said, “Hey instead of dealing with more rejection (I was an actor at the time), how about we start our own bilingual publishing company?”  SO, we did.  It was called Caliente Publishing.  My unrevised, unedited, under-illustrated manuscript was our first acquisition.  And we had one teeny, tiny problem, no money.  SO much for that road.  Thank goodness.

Now what?  What to do next?  Well, I put it in the drawer and fifteen years went by. 
“Hey, have you heard of SCBWI?” I tell this friend three years ago.  “I’m gonna take our book and see if I can get it published.  I mean, it’s already illustrated and that’s half the battle.”  And her reply was, “Awesome.”  You never know, right?

Wrong.  Oh so wrong. 

I bring my beautifully illustrated ms to the conference in LA and the first Keynote speaker’s words of wisdom are- “If you are not an artist, don’t illustrate your own book.”  Well, I made sure not to show that draft to anyone.  Then I had it reviewed by a professional critiquer. I was sure this person would love to see my finished draft.

I had paid for a thirty minute consultation.  That took about ninety seconds for her to say, no way José.  The rest was going to be silence. Deadly, silence.

“So do you have anything else?”  The critiquer asks me.  “Yes” I say, on auto pilot.

In the world of acting, you always have an extra song, monologue, or comedy routine planned, in case they don’t like your first stuff.  SO I say yes.

Jane Yolen
I only had a title.  What do I have to loose?  After a fun 28.5 minutes of discussion, the person says to me, “If you write that story, I want to read it.”  Ok, well, then let me write it. How hard can this be?

Six months later, I have a draft.  I think it is fabulous.  It made me cry.  I ask my husband to read it.  It makes him cry, but not for the same reason.  SO I get it, it’s a lousy first draft, but I have no clue what to do next.

“Revision.”  What the heck is revision?  Jane Yolen says it is to see your MS with new eyes again.  But what am I seeing?

Lisa Yee
I’m sitting in a workshop with Lisa Yee and she’s telling us all about revision.  And I only have one question, “How do I know that the word I am changing or deleting isn’t supposed to stay in?”  What if I chop out a good part, an award winning sentence?

She says, “If it is supposed to be in the book it will be, even when you revise.”  HUH?  SO I begin trying to fix the draft.  Hubby tries to help, and it almost cost us the marriage- note to self: hubby is not a good person to have as critique partner in most cases, stick with a stranger).

I go at it alone for six months.  Everyone says to me, you need a critique group.  Yeah, ok, but where do you shop for one?  And once you have them, what do you do with them?  Do you feed them? (Apparently, yes you do with cookies.)

Then I form a group, quite serendipitously, since I have never done it before and they were and are my saving grace.  With their careful help, we took the draft apart and one year later, (18 months to the day I finished the first awful original draft), I have a draft that is ready to send to an agent. 

Which I do.

And the agent loves it, but she wants to see another revision.  “No problem,” I say. 

A long way from “Huh?”

I bang this one out in three months, from start to finish.  No longer was I worried about what I was chopping.  I was excited about the stuff that was flourishing as a result.  Of course, I forgot what my kids looked like, (thank goodness for the 35 hours of public school which provided me time to write so I could still play with my kids after school).

And here I am, 3.5 years from the pitch of a title and idea to a finished MS with an agent and which has undergone several revisions.  I have seen it all new and it’s a great view. 

And the job at hand now?  To revise and deepen one main character.

Piece of revision cake.

14 comments:

  1. I am just a few months into my first MS and surprisingly enough your 3.5 year pilgrimage had me not only smiling, but encouraged :) I am guessing you fed your critique group enough cookies :)

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  2. WOW this is an amazing story. So brave of you to lay it out there from beginning to now for us to experience with you and learn from:)

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  3. "I am guessing you fed your critique group enough cookie"
    This chocolate chip cookie gourmet can attest to the scrumptious quality of Mrs. Garcia's cookies.
    Sincerely,
    Macho Morsel

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  4. Bravo, Hilde! I want a slice of that too.

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  5. Seems to me that Pen and Ink are on a roll with their manuscripts lately! Good luck all you fun loving, talented guys! I will live vicariously through all of you…hmmm.

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  6. A great story that shows persistence and the true life of a writer. Thanks for sharing. Good luck to you.

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  7. An inspiring story especially for unpublished writers! Proves how sharing one's experiences is so important and supportive for others.

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  8. I enjoyed your clever accounting of your book, from genesis to the present. Good luck with the revise!

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  9. Hilde -
    Glad to hear that you've gotten more than just your feet wet at this point. I'm ready to buy my "signed by author" copy. Let me know when it's published - and would be only too willing to be one of your critquers. Very excited for you, Hilde!! You're almost there. - Alan
    PS - Yeah, I'm afraid it's husband or critquer...you can't have that cake and eat it too.

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  10. Wonderful story, Hilde. I'm glad you stuck with it.

    Best of luck,

    Cheryl

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  11. Hello all of my dear friends. Thank you so much for you fabulous comments. I always thought that I could write, but never had the courage to actually do it, or show anyone anything I had written. I love how we support each other and yes, I fed the whole group in cookies, and lots of them, although, I hear, not enough. I wish each and every one of you the best revision process and cake you can bake.

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  12. PS- And did you see my nice letterhead that was designed by the same friend who was going to illustrate? It's actually fantastic letterhead and she now makes her living at graphic design and she is still my best friend and she is as anxious for my book to fly as all of you are.

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  13. "I fed the whole group in cookies, and lots of them, although, I hear, not enough."

    One cookie is not enough. I want to dive into a warm chocolate pool of cookies and do the backstroke.
    Sincerely,
    Aqua Chip

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  14. Hilde

    This was a great read. Well Done!

    Carmen

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