I spent the better part of last year writing Addicted, my first novel. For much of that time, a freelance editor was working her magic on my memoir, Glass Houses. Though she sent me her recommendations and suggestions back in November, I decided to finish the novel before turning my attention to revising the memoir.
The writer’s group reviewed the last section of Addicted on December 17th. I spent a few days making revisions before sticking a fork in it, calling it done, and shipping it off to the same editor who worked on the memoir. At long last, I was ready to tackle revisions to Glass Houses.
The first step was to review everything I got back from the editor: eleven pages of chapter-by-chapter notes, three completely reworked chapters, and more than 300 pages of manuscript covered with red ink. Just the quantity of information was a bit overwhelming. I finally decided the best approach was to break the massive task down into smaller, more easily accomplished stages.
The first stage would be line edits–correcting typos, fixing punctuation errors, deleting irrelevant sections, and rearranging sentences or paragraphs. The second stage would revolve around rewrites. The third stage would be reading the entire manuscript through from start to finish, making minor changes to make sure the final draft was as close to perfect as I could get it.
Between holiday festivities, work, exercise, and the need to critique an almost overwhelming number of submissions for the writer’s group, the big challenge has been finding the time to work on the revisions. Whenever I had a little time, I worked on the line edits. It was very slow going.
This weekend, my partner drove down to Florida for his grandmother’s 90th birthday celebration. I and the dogs had the house to ourselves Friday, Saturday, and most of today. The cold weather made it the perfect time to focus on revisions.
Friday I finished all the line edits. In the process, I discovered a bunch of minor things I learned while writing Addicted that the editor let slide. I spent fourteen hours on Saturday doing “find and replace” and other searches to make sure every list included a comma before the and, that I was consistent in the way I spelled words like okay (not OK) and DuPont (not Dupont), and that numbers were spelled out (three, not 3). I also changed the names of two characters.
The manuscript shrunk from more than 110,000 words to 104,000 words. The editor did a great job of pointing out parts that did little or nothing to advance the story. By the time I finish rewrites, I’m hoping to trim it down to less than 100,000 words.
Today I started on rewrites. It didn’t take long to realize that skipping around to focus on just the sections that needed to be rewritten wasn’t going to work. Instead, I started at the beginning, editor’s notes in hand, to focus on one chapter at a time. Major changes often mean going back to the beginning and reading through to make sure everything works. At the rate I’m going, it will take months to reach the end.
The good news is that I can already tell the revised manuscript is much improved. As those of you who’ve read it know, the first 100 pages or so need the most work. They cover the early years of my life and include everything I could remember–including a lot that has very little to do with the story I’m trying to tell.
Rather than frustrating, working on the revisions is exciting. In addition to all the suggestions from the editor, I’m also making changes that incorporate the things I learned from my writer’s group while I worked on Addicted. The end result will be a much better book.
Everyone who has read Glass Houses tells me they loved it. Granted, they are all friends, but the fact they made it to the end of the massive manuscript without giving up says a lot. It’s enough to keep me focused on revisions, here in…
My Glass House