Nathan here! I’m very pleased to have a guest post today by David Zeltser, whose debut novel LUG is going on sale today!
Better yet, we’re giving away three signed copies of LUG! All you have to do is leave a comment asking to be entered (non-anonymously please!), and we’ll choose three random winners.
Here’s David’s post:
At every stage of your writing life—from newbie egg, to agented caterpillar, to published butterfly—you will be asked to revise your work. In this guest post, I’d like to share a few of the edits I’ve taken, and not taken, and my golden rule for revising.
The Newbie Egg Stage
When you’re first starting out, your friends and family will dutifully read whatever your hand them. Then they’ll come back to you with stiff little smiles and say things like “it’s good,” “nice work,” and “great job!” The temptation is to believe these oh-so-sweet big fat lies.
In fact, at this point, your job is to try to pry the truth from their stiff little grinning lips. It may take some convincing but, ultimately, they will reveal all.
And then, when they let loose, it’s your turn to grin and bear it.
Here’s a lesson I learned the hard way. Let’s call it:
The Newbie Egg’s Golden Rule of Revising
Almost all readers’ suggestions have something of value. The key is not so much to take them verbatim as to find the underlying problems that inspired the suggestions–problems that the readers are often not even consciously aware of. If you can detect those issues, you can choose the best way to revise.
Once you’ve dived in and taken a pass at fixing the deeper problems, show a few other people your respect. Put your manuscript away for a while. Keep repeating until you’re happy and your readers are no longer just politely grinning. Then, I hope you’ll find yourself in. . .
The Agented Caterpillar Stage
If your agent is worth her salt, she too will have revisions. My agent is Catherine Drayton of InkWell Management. With her permission, I’d like to share a few key excerpts from her LUG edit letter to me:
The Environmental message
I think that the coming of the Ice Age and the parallels with our current environmental crisis are a strong selling point for this book. Lug’s talent is that he is extremely observant and the subtle way you handle this at the moment is perfect. I do however think that you could use some more funny observations from Lug and evidence his frustration that no one else around him seems to notice what is happening to the world. Kids have an uncanny way of zoning in on what’s really important and feel powerful when they can see something that adults can’t.
I do think that the relationship between Lug and his father is important and could use development especially in the context of choosing the next big man and banishment from the tribe. I want to see more interaction between Lug and his family at the beginning of the book, especially Big Lug. If we see, clearly, what Lug has—we understand better what he is forced to leave.
In terms of the language I think that I would tone down the ‘cave man’ talk. It is always risky to use dialect as it can fall very flat and draw attention to the author. Lug is speaking in perfectly formed English so I’d consider having the others do so as well – even if it is in very clipped, short bursts.
Once you and your agent are happy with your chrysalis…ur…manuscript, my hope is that you’ll emerge into . . .
The Published Butterfly Stage
Once you have an editor at a publishing house, you book is in the final revision phase! Although I was excited to steal almost all of my editor’s suggestions for LUG, I thought it might be useful to share a rare example when I chose not to take one. Here’s an excerpt from an email I sent to my editor on that topic:
In a few places you’ve asked for the removal of certain words or concepts because they seemed too sophisticated for the Stone Age. I had thought about doing this quite a bit in my first drafts of LUG, and ultimately decided against it. Basically, I concluded that I would not write this story as hard (or even soft) science fiction, but rather as satirical comic fantasy.
She quickly took the point, helping me to fine tune the intentionally anachronistic words and concepts I used to satirize our society’s inaction on climate change. I’m grateful to all my editors/readers for their enormous help. I also want to say a big thanks to Nathan Bransford for the opportunity to guest post on a blog I’ve found very useful in my own writing life.
Watch the LUG book trailer and learn more about all the books here.
Katherine Eion M.S.W. says
Kate Eion…I would like to be entered to win a copy of Lug.
Kathy Ellen Davis says
Great post 🙂
I really liked seeing examples of revision suggestions at each stage, and you standing up for something you wanted to keep in!
David Zeltser says
Thank you! Very excited about being on the blog with all of you.
UPDATE: Al Gore has tweeted about the book today!
Maya Prasad says
Hywela Lyn says
Very useful advice here. I'd love to be considered for a copy of Lug.
Joanne R. Fritz says
Happy Book Birthday to David! Enjoyed this fascinating glimpse into your revisions and edits. Not entering your giveaway, since I'm also on the blog tour and already read (and loved!) the book.
Leanne Ross says
LUG sounds great. Please enter my name in the drawing.
Love the analogy of a Butterfly's li8fe cycle to encourage writer's growth and change. Please enter me for a free signed copy!
Robin Connelly says
Lug sounds cute. Enter me in the drawing, please.
Bruce Bonafede says
Excellent post. I especially appreciated explaining the instance where you did NOT take a suggestion.
Lug sounds like fun – please enter me!
I love revising and can hardly wait until I get to revise from an agents feedback!
I would like to be entered
Ernie J. Zelinski says
"Who am I to tamper with a masterpiece?"
— Oscar Wilde (when asked to revise one of his plays)
Laura Martone says
Your book sounds intriguing, David – and I appreciate your editing advice. That said, please enter me for a chance to win a copy of your debut. And of course, congrats!
I agree whole-heartedly with your golden rule, David, from personal experience. There were times when I felt something wasn't working in someone's work, so thought I should suggest something although wasn't sure that this was the solution.
Lug sounds very intriguing and engaging. Please consider me an entrant to win a signed copy. And congratulations for receiving a mention from Al Gore!
K. L. Romo says
Thanks David and Nathan. Great post! I agree – hard to decide when to stop editing, but eventually…
Bryan Russell says
This is great.
I've always said that the key aspect is not the critique you receive, but what you do with that critique. A great critique doesn't mean anything if you can't apply it and make your book better. And a bad critique, if you listen to it, can do immeasurable damage. The key is to evaluate the criticism and find the truth in it that resonates with you: find the right problem and then find the right solution.
Neil Larkins says
I especially liked the advice you gave about seeking family input. To my regret I once did that. Not again, even when they ask and they have. Book sounds fun, David. Good luck!
Please enter my name Jackie Watson.
Calorie Bombshell says
Great post, David. I'd love to be entered into the drawing! Cynthia Ivers.
This book sounds wonderful! I would love to win a copy so my son and I can read it together 🙂
patience mason says
I would like to enter the contest. The books ounds very funny and fun.
Please enter me in the giveaway, if I'm not too late. Sounds like a neat book.
Claudia DiSalvo says
I am knee deep in revising my story. It is a very 'tedious and difficult' process. I also sent copies to family members and their comments ranged from 'wonderful' to one niece who had some difficulty with the characters relationships. I have to try to embrace all comments ensuring that I reflected and revised. I focused on being more proactive than reactive. Your blog was enlightening. It was short but powerful. Thank you.And I would be honored to be entered and actually win a copy of "LUG". Thank you and I look forward to following your work.