This past weekend, as I dove into the latest round of PPP revisions (and hopefully the final round before I resubmit!), I got to thinking. Writers sure spend a lot of their time revising. In fact, you might argue that we spend just as much time fixing what we've written as we do writing it.
Each of my stories has a folder where I keep the drafts, from the earliest version to the one that I query. I hit "Save As New File" every time I make revisions, so in the PPP folder, I end up having files titled "PUMPKIN PATCH PRINCESS - Version 1" and "PUMPKIN PATCH PRINCESS - Version 2 - CUT 20K, AGENT" and "PUMPKIN PATCH PRINCESS - Version 3 - NO PROLOGUE, ALTERNATE ENDING," etc.
It's fun to compare the first draft to the latest, because sometimes they're so different, it's like reading two different novels! It's also a boost to see how much better the story has gotten over time.
Here's a timeline I put together for PPP, from conception to (nearly) complete and all the revisions in between:
- December: I finished RICE FLOWER MEMOIRS and submitted the unpolished, NaNoWriMo rough draft to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. (Yikes. YIKES. I would never even consider doing this now. How embarrassing.)
- I wanted to work on something else in the meantime and had been toying with the idea of writing a teen book. I had just reread my beloved copy of The Arabian Nights, where many stories dealt with the curse of the genie: no matter how powerful a genie was, he would always be a prisoner to the wishes of others. Coming on the heels of another viewing of Cinderella, one of my all-time favorite Disney movies, I transferred this idea to fairy godmothers. Et voila - PPP was born!
- March:I got distracted by someone taking pity on RICE FLOWER MEMOIRS and making it an ABNA quarterfinalist. MIND BLOWN. I tossed PPP aside to focus on it, especially after my critique partner very gently pointed out that it still needed a LOT of work (and she couldn't have been more right).
- My critique partner and I decided to add some weird guy to our group. Three years later, he's still hanging around and I can't seem to get rid of him. :D
- April: RICE FLOWER MEMOIRS rightfully got axed before it could reach the ABNA semifinals. After a pity party involving lots of wine and chocolate, I put the manuscript on the shelf with a sigh and spotted PPP nestled there under a blanket of dust. I began working on it again... very slowly, since I was preparing to leave my job and move to the city.
- December:PPP still not finished. The new job was keeping me busy, busy, busy, and I was lucky if I could get 3,000 words down in a weekend. Plus, I kept hemming and hawing about where I wanted the story to go, whether I wanted it to be a comedy, and how much Cinderella I wanted to put in there.
- July: Yes. JULY. Earlier in the year, I got a promotion that made my life a lot easier and I came home every day happier and less stressed. This was the perfect time to get back to PPP. I finally discovered how I wanted the book to end, so it was just a matter of connecting the dots to take the story there.
- August: I finished the first draft! I knew that revisions would take no time at all and was pumped to start querying in the fall. (Ha. Ha. Haha. Hahahah. Hahahahahahah. Oh, innocent 2011 Julie, you tickle me.)
- December: Life distracted me, AND I scored a shiny new job offer. I planned it so that I could resign from my old job and enjoy almost three weeks in between to focus on PPP edits. That worked, because it led to the completion of Round 1 of revisions!
- February: I did another readthrough and had Round 2 of revisions, which was mostly copyediting. Then I calmly emailed the manuscript to my critique partners and readers and proceeded to curl up in the fetal position and bite all my nails off while I waited for their feedback. To keep busy (and sane), I started a sparkling new WIP that became what is now ELEGY.
- April: My readers got back to me with good news: they loved PPP! BUT (and there always is a BUT, and always should be, when it comes to writing) there were plenty of changes to be made. They wanted more world-building. They wanted loose ends tied up. They wanted entire scenes and whole chapters chopped. (*Darth Vader voice* Nooooooooooo...) And at least half of them mentioned that the story seemed too young for YA... that was clue #1.
- May: Armed and ready, I dove back in for Round 3 of revisions. In the meantime, I drafted a query letter and made a list of agents I wanted to represent my book. At the very top was one who had indicated interest and had given me some terrific feedback, which led to me killing the prologue and getting into the story more quickly.
- June-September: After nudging a few queries out the door (and getting feedback saying that the story seemed more appropriate for a younger audience... Clue #2), I began to seriously consider turning PPP into a middle-grade novel. In the meantime, I participated in WriteOnCon to beef up my query letter and first pages, where an editor from Entangled Publishing complimented my pitch (eeeee!) and suggested that PPP might be better suited for younger readers (Clue #3). I re-queried the interested agent, who kindly agreed to read my partial.
- November: I received an R&R from the agent, who suggested changing the book from YA to upper MG (...Clue #4). Folks, when almost all of your readers, an editor, and three agents suggest the same thing, LISTEN TO THEM. I embarked on Round 4 of revisions and sent the upper MG version of PPP back out into the hands of my readers.
- December: My readers and CPs unanimously agreed that the story read a lot more genuinely as an upper MG. However (surprise, surprise) it turned out that more revisions were needed since the word count was too high. 77K is right in the sweet spot for YA... not so much for MG. Which meant at least 10-15K had to go. *muffled sob*
So that's where I am right now. Pruning down the word count has been much easier than I anticipated. I try to remember that this story was once 110,000 words. (Yeah. I know.) And I brought that sucker down to 80,000, then to 77,000. Bringing it down to the 60Ks should (hopefully) be a breeze. Wishful thinking, anyway...
What about you? How many rounds of revision has your story been through and how many more before you query/submit?