Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tell Yourself You're Brilliant and Revise Like a Madwoman

These were two insights I gained from a recent writer's workshop.

There is a wonderful organization in this area that sponsors an annual event, "What If All of ____ Read the Same Book?" Are there any towns in your area that participate in this event?  If so, I highly recommend investigating it. This is the first year I attended one of the events, but I plan to make it an annual outing.

The author I was priviliged to hear is Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief. Please note that this is an endorsement only of the information shared at the workshop.

The information in Tinti's workshop was tremendously helpful, even though I am not using it at this stage in my journey.  That's because her topic was revision and I'm following her first draft advice to the letter: Turn off your internal editor! Get it down! Have fun!

How many drafts do you write? Hannah wrote 15 for The Good Thief, which originally weighed in at over 600 pages and is now under half that total.

A quote I particularly liked was "your writing is a jigsaw puzzle you created, you have the solution."  I've thought about this quote several times since. If I truly allow Christ to direct my writing day by day it doesn't mean I'm not working by a plan, but that I should be prepared for the plan to change without much notice. 

Do you struggle with making messy first drafts?  Oh, boy, can I relate.

In college writing classes, Tinti's intstructor challenged her to produce one page of the worst writing possible.  This then freed them from fear of failure. 

When I sit down to write these last few weeks I preface my session with telling myself "you are free to write the worst possible."  Its freeing, and I have not produced my worst work ever.  In fact, I think this allowance has improved my rough draft as I've also allowed myself to "disobey" my outline and allowed the story to move more freely.

At the end of each draft Tinti advises telling ourselves we're brilliant, having a "draft" party...THEN waking up the next day and ruthlessly revising. 

Now, I'm not quite ready for my draft party....BUT I am ready to party with you in celebration of over 300 followers.  I have 2 books up for the grabs to TWO lucky commenters: Lady in Waiting by Susan Meissner and Petra by T.L. Higley. 

Tell me a bit about your revision process, if you're working on a novel.  Is it difficult for you to free yourself up to write your first draft?  How many times have you revised a work-in-progress?

Be sure to include your email address and which book you would like to read.  The winner will be announced in Saturday's post.


Cindy R. Wilson said...

Julia, that sounds like great advice. I used to enjoy my first drafts so much because I don't think I knew enough of the "rules" to outweigh my creativity. The more I learned about writing, though, the harder it was to turn off my internal editor and I had a hard time getting out first drafts without feeling stifled. I'm working to find that balance, and ready to start a new book soon, so we'll see.

Casey said...

I think the concept of 15 drafts is actually very encouraging! I am going through so much of that editing right now and it's comforting to know we never actually "reach it", but can always improve. Just at a certain point we have to let go. :)

Renee said...

I love that advice! I'm going to try "freeing" myself when I write this weekend. I'd love to be in for Petra if it's not too late. Blessings! reneeasmith61 [at] yahoo [dot] com

Christine Long said...

My first draft spilled out in about 2 1/2 months. I'm on month 2 of revising and editing. After receiving two conflicting critiques of the first few pages, I tried revising more but became frustrated. I've taken a step back for a little while and I'm working on several other projects. I did enter two different writing contests so I will wait until I receive those critiques before heading back to the revision board.

Both books sound great but I've been looking forward to reading Lady in Waiting.

teaching by writing [at] yahoo [dot] com

Julia said...


I'll be curious to hear how it goes this time around. How exciting to be starting a new manuscript!


I know! I found it encouraging too. And she's won many awards, too. Just shows its OK to take lots of tries. :)

Renee Ann,

You're in for Petra. Let me know if it helps you. I'm seriously thinking about taking the time to write the worst ever page...it might be fun :)


Wow, that's impressive on your timing. At least for me :) Sometimes a step back is a good thing. Hope it will help you gain a new perspective. You're in the drawing for Lady in Waiting.

Ralene said...

Writing my first draft is pretty easy. I'm a "bare bones" type with my first draft. In future drafts, I add in all the extra stuff. :) I can't tell you exactly how many they go through, as I haven't quite finished one completely to my satisfaction. lol... I will say my oldest one is on about the 6th or 7th edit.

I would love to read Petra! raeburk01 at yahoo dot com

Joy Tamsin David said...

Oh Julia, my revision is painstakingly slow. I could spend a month on a chapter. Finding just the right word to insert only to take it out again three hours later. I don't know how to speed up the process though.

I would love to read Lady in Waiting. It was nominated for our book club recently. I've heard good things about it.

Pepper said...

Hey Julia,
Oh dear...
what a post! What a reminder! The fourth book I ever wrote (when I was ready to write, seriously), I finished my first draft in 2 months (this was 4 years ago).
9 revisions later - and who knows how many edits, I'm getting to a place where I'm REALLY proud of it.

Same with my historical romance. I've rewritten it about 11 times over the past 10 years. I love my most recent changes - so maybe... I'll get faster with each story.
Here's hopin'. :-)

Faith Hope and Cherrytea said...

very encouraging and empowering! thx :)
blstef1 at mts dot net
writing - focus - refocus - clarify.
i actually like the refining & self critique. Lady in Waiting by Susan Meissner pls:)THx!

Margaret Metz said...

My first draft was truly ugly. I broke every rule out there but I loved my story. I can't tell you how many revisions I've done because some of them were only partial, some were lost in computer meltdowns...

I do know that I have finally hit on a method that seems to be working for me. I need to see more of the manuscript than the computer screen offers. So with my latest (and most productive edits) I printed off one chapter at a time. I sometimes edited a couple before I went back to the computer to enter the changes.

I want to hit a certain balance. If I wait too long to go back and enter the changes then I might not be able to read all my squiggled notes and they won't be fresh in my mind. If I don't look at enough of the manuscript while making changes then I may overlook continuity problems or an opportunity to strengthen the book by tying events from scene to scene. This is especially important for me to look for in revisions because I'm a SOTP writer. :o)

Margaret Metz said...

Oops I forgot my email address: leesmithwriting at yahoo dot com and I would love a chance at "Lady in Waiting" by Susan Meissner

Julia said...


I bet you'll just have a sense when you get it the way you want it. I'm impressed with those of you that are on edit 6-7 already. I'm looking forward to that process.


I know what you mean. It was helpful to me when Tinti shared that she has a specific list of things she does during each draft. Maybe I'll have to do a future post on this. She said it helps her not to get caught up on a detail because she knows she will catch it in edit # whatever.


Wow, 2 months! Sounds like you hit about close to the draft numbers Tinti makes and she is an award-winner. I'm enjoying continuing to watch God work through you as a writer!

Julia said...


I'm glad it was helpful to you. I enjoy the self-critique process, too only I find its more helpful when I'm editing then when I'm writing.


That's a great point about finding the balance. I know some edit as they go along. I tried that in the beginning of my manuscript, but think I just need to peg away at it and do the editing later.

Terrie Todd said...

"I have not produced my worst work ever." Too funny! What a great goal. I'd love to win "Lady in Waiting." jltodd at mts dot net