I’ve decided that the revisions process is a bit like learning to play golf.
My agent wants revisions by September 10th, which works for me: as a lawyer, I like to work within deadlines. But I’m finding as I go through his list, much of what I’m doing is ‘undoing’ changes I had made along the way. Each agent I’ve dealt with and each external reader had a slightly different take, and each wanted a different adjustment. Over the past year, I’ve rewritten the book to change the POV (and thus, the main character); to remove chapters, to add new ones, to change the ending, lose twists, remove dialogue tags, shorten it by 20,000 words (then add 20,000 words when I learned it was too short) etc. etc.
When I was learning to play golf, which I still play badly, I made the mistake of going to a very good golf school where a different instructor came around every few minutes to observe what I was doing and make suggestions. When I started, without all that advice, I was hitting the ball straight and hard, just not as far as I wanted. By the time they were finished tweaking my swing, I couldn’t connect with the ball at all. I found it enormously frustrating. I left, knowing that what I had really needed was one person to work with me, observe my progress, and coach me to improve, not a continuous stream of external commentators who were around only long enough to sink my confidence in what I was trying to learn.
Several times yesterday, I threw my hands in the air, ready to give up.
At midnight, after almost fourteen hours plunked in front of the computer, I re-read the revisions. And the book was better. Tighter. A main character who had disappeared in the second half had regained his prominence. The end of the book was less muddy; crisper. A backstory I had plunked at the end was chopped up and relocated to parts of the book where it made more sense. Overall, I had lost nothing of the story, but the structural changes my agent had suggested were all good ones. The end result is much, much better.
We’re shooting for the Frankfurt Book Fair, so I hope I’m on the right track with the changes he suggested. I’d love to get this book out and published in a time frame that the publishing world would probably consider a speed-dial. But from now on, I’ve decided that while I may consider the advice I get from my external readers and others, I’m going to rely on it less, and count on my agent to know what’s needed to make this book as good as it can be.
As my daugher pointed out last to me last night, I can trust him, because he trusts me.