Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Suck it up, Cupcake

Suck it up, Cupcake.

That's what I kept telling myself when all I wanted to do was stick my fingers in my ears and tell the developmental editor, 'La-la-la-I can't hear you."

I knew the old WIP I asked her to look at needed work. What I didn't let myself believe was how MUCH work it needed.

Some of you may have heard me say this before, but it was less revision than gut-renovation. As in taking the house down to the studs and rebuilding.

The ground floor of our house, demolition phase, after the fire, 2011

It can be done. It's just a painful process.

I don't think there was a single line where Rebecca didn't have a comment. Ouch!

This is what it looked like. And these were just the first 2 pages. After 3 chapters, she wrote 3 pages of extensive editorial notes. In red. Ouch and ouch!

I'll be honest. I pouted. I whined. I argued. I'm not proud of my behavior. But I sucked it up and did the work.

Then I re-did it.

And re-did it again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

It took me about 3 weeks and at least 4 or 5 retries at the beginning, but finally something clicked and with the right foundation, I could start the rebuild.

Now, 2 months later, (and about 10 months faster than my house renovation process took, btw!) I have the revision complete.

Is it perfect?

Of course not. Now is when we start (to push the analogy) the punch list. When I've had some time/space away from the story, I'll send it back for round 2 with the editor. If I've done my work well enough, her work will be to help me put the final shine to it, without any more significant structural tear-down. 

In the interest of showing my process, warts and all, here is the original first page, followed by the revision.

Lilliane bolted upright at the touch on her arm. Her blanket fell away and she shivered as much from the cold as from the familiar dream--her mother’s body cooling, the spreading pool of blood, her newborn brother’s cry.
"Healer Tor, they need you in the infirmary," a soft voice whispered. A young boy, dressed in runner's black stood beside her.
Blinking, she tried to force him into focus as the dream receded and her heart’s pounding slowed. She rubbed gritty eyes and stretched the sore muscles of her lower back. It had been well past midnight when she’d stumbled into the on-duty room. That couldn’t have been more than a few hours ago.
"Who?" she whispered, mindful of the other healers sleeping in cots around them. The boy shrugged. Lilliane sighed, running her fingers through sleep-tangled hair. Why couldn’t it have been someone else’s patient. She pulled on slippers and cloak and plodded after the runner through the guild hall’s silent corridors to the infirmary. It was hard not to be jealous as the boy retreated back to his still-warm bunk.
Squaring her shoulders, she walked inside. Men in mottled brown and tan garb stood out against the infirmary’s white walls. Lilliane frowned at the soldiers who formed a cordon around the examination table in the center of the room. Her aunt Kayla leaned close to a senior apprentice, her voice low and insistent, tension in the set of her shoulders.
Lit sconces pulled reflections from the polished steel of short swords and daggers. They were between her and her patient.

     Lilliane waited for her turn to wash, the coppery tang of blood stinging her nose and the back of her throat. The muscles in her lower back twinged as she stretched. Their patient would live to drink and fight another day, his blind luck in having an assailant with a knife who managed to miss all of his vital organs and make a dramatic mess instead.
     At least she hadn't failed him.
     Davyn peeled off his spattered over-tunic and kicked it towards the basket beneath the basin. Hers had soaked clear through to her undergarments and hung wet and heavy against her. She shuddered in the cold stone room as Davyn slipped on a clean, dry tunic and turned, examining her as if she were one of his patients.
     "I'm fine," she said, stiffening her body to keep from shivering.
     "You're a bad liar."
     Aching for a cup of healer's tea, she brushed past him and tore off her bloody layers, ignoring the feel of his gaze on her bare spine. Rubbing her hands under the spigot, she watched the blood swirl down the drain in a lazy spiral and scrubbed between her fingers until her skin burned.
     A baby's cry echoed against the stone walls of the infirmary and her heart stuttered. A flow of hot blood sheeted from her useless hands. She bit the inside of her cheek, struggling not to cry out.
     "Lilli?" Davyn's concern washed over her.
     She stared down at her hands: They were clean and dripping with warm water, not blood, the nails bitten down to the quick, the cuticles ragged. There was no wailing infant here tonight. Their patient had been a drunk who lost a fight, not a mother hemorrhaging out her life as Lilliane struggled to stanch the flow and her little sister screamed.
If you'd like to read the revision, I have begun to serialize the fantasy novel, now titled OATHBREAKER'S PRICE, 1-2 chapters a week on Wattpad.


  1. I despise revision, mostly because I don't know how to assess what needs fixing. Thanks for the reminder to stay focused and determined.

  2. Ouch. I might have done more than whine. But you definitely buckled down! And the second excerpt is the stronger of the two. Thanks for sharing your revision process.