Thursday, December 16, 2010

To Get To That Center Of A Tootsie Roll Pop

How many licks does it take to get to the end of a revision?

I had a great NaNo this year.  I didn't write 50,000 words, but I did give myself permission to start a new novel.  It was something that I needed to do, but for some reason just hadn't.  My MG revision was my single focus, and I felt panicked about the idea of starting something new.  I don't have a ton of time to write, and I thought that if I spread myself thin, then I wouldn't be able to finish my revision. But I also knew that drafting taps into a different part of my creativity--a necessary one.  Maybe I could be even more productive if I allowed myself to work on a few things simultaneously.  So I NaNoed a new novel, and I am having a great time with it.  That novel and the revision are rolling forward.

But the amount of time I have spent revising this one MG novel brings to mind this old Tootsie Pop commercial.  Just how long does it take to get to the center (read: end) of a revision?  How many licks does it take to polish off a book? It's a frustrating question, one that makes me compare my process to the writing process of others.  And comparing can lead me to say things like: "so-and-so can revise a book in a year.  What is wrong with me that I'm not there yet?"  It's dangerous.  And it's one of the reason why I collect so many journeys from other writers.  If you haven't read the Friday Journey Toward Publication Interviews, please check them out.  ------------------------>

I love that everyone has their own process. I love finding out how others get to their center.  And I love how there is magic involved.  How you work so hard, plug away, toil with words, and then *CRUNCH*--the perfect solution comes to you.  Whether by talking to a crit partner, or just letting your brain work it out, the magic happens.  Things come together.  There's that satisfying crunch. The point where things fall into place.  A bit of magic. You hit that tootsie roll middle and know that you're on to something great.

How do you get your crunch?  How are you balancing writing and blogging with the holiday rush?  (Hopefully a bit better than I am! :)) How many licks does it take you to get to the end of a polished book?

And maybe the question really is: How many crunches does it take to get to the center of a revision? How many crit partners?  How much magic?  How much toil.  The world may never know. :)

Happy Thursday!


  1. Oh man, great post. I'm still learning how to balance - finding it difficult, especially during this rotten cold/flu/allergy season... and so far I don't feel like I've even licked off a layer of my tootsie pop's candy coating.... but I really like tootsie rolls, so I'm determined to get to the middle! :) Hopefully it will be worth the LONG time invested!

  2. Great post, Heather! I'm wondering the same question with my current WIP. I've just started draft number 3. I had one critique partner read 2 chapters of the first draft. Will it be finished in 4 more drafts or 14 more, I don't know...

    I've got another WIP that after 9 drafts I gave it to 4 people to read. I'm guessing it'll be a couple more drafts to completion... but I'm not sure :-)

    I've heard some published authors mention doing 30 drafts, others polish as they go and have one or two.

    Happy writing!!

  3. I am really hoping to get to that crunch soon! NaNo was a rejuvenating experience for me (I needed to write something new, too) but now I'm back to revising. Again. It doesn't seem to end, does it? But we'll both get there! :-)

  4. I wish there was one concrete answer to this! But it always requires a lot of gusto.

  5. I don't know if you ever finish. Honestly, I think you could have it published and still think of things that would make it better.

  6. Yeah, they say great books are never finished, only abandoned. (I recently read a professor's syllabus that said the same thing about term papers, but I don't believe anyone really revises those thing--it's a midnight run and then an abandonment.)

    Good news and bad news: it depends on the project and the writer. Some writers can bang out a first draft that's so pretty that they can send it off and VOILA! We hate those people. A lot. And some projects take seven hundred drafts. We hate those for a different reason, but are soooo relieved when it's all done.

    It just takes what it takes and don't be worried that if break is necessary.

  7. You started a new novel for nano, but not for me. I resent that. :P

    I am writing, right now actually. It feels momentous.

  8. Laurel's right. I've read interviews with published authors who talk about wanting to go into bookstores and line edit their books

    Are we all perfectionists? That might be an interesting poll.

    Balance is not a part of my life at the moment. Writing has not been a part of my life either. At least not in any significant way. Working on what I need to achieve that balance, but that will take time and effort that will also not go towards writing - at least not directly.

    When I read about authors who revise in a short period of time, invariably I find out they don't have a full time job. Either that or they're damn good at time management.

    The one time I did a major revision over one weekend, I did nothing else. Can't do that often. And that book is still waiting for me to finish yet another major revision.

  9. Great post Heather. I often ask myself the What's wrong with me? question. You know I have been revising for years. And I still have one more to do. I got an awesome editor critique but she said it wasn't quite there yet. Sigh. But we'll get there. Hopefully soon.

  10. Great post, Heather, and some interesting comments, too. I especially like your point about not comparing ourselves to others. Way too demoralizing. Congrats on starting a new book and STILL pushing forward w/the new draft.

    As for me, I'm making myself finish a first draft since I realize I've started this over more times than I care to count but have never gotten to the end. Sigh.

  11. When revising, I love starting something new. It's nice and mentally healthy to have something underway when done revising!

  12. I change my approach a lot. I'm not writing much right now, but actually hope to up the word count over the holidays by using some well placed bribes.

  13. I remember that commercial. Relating it to writing was a cute idea. Have an enjoyable holiday!

  14. Marisa--:) You'll get to the center! I'm sorry that you've been attacked by the flu season. I hope everyone is well now in your neck of the woods!!

    Paul--I don't actually keep track of draft numbers--each month I rename my draft based on that month. I was getting too bummed out about the number. So now I'm working on "January 2011 Star", "January 2011 Blindspot", etc. It's great that every writer has their own way of revising.

    Anna--Yay, we will both get there, right?!

    Elena--I love that--gusto!!

    Laurel--I agree. Sad, but true.

    Jenny-LOL about the term papers. I never looked back on those. I surely hope that the polished-first-draft-writers are a MYTH. :)

    J--I'm sure that I wouldn't have done NaNo if I didn't have you bugging me about starting something new. It was def. a combined effort. :p Glad you're writing.

    Sarah--Interesting theory about time management. That's one I can hang my hat on. Let me know when you poll for perfectionists!

    Natalie--Cringe. I am trying to do less of the "what is wrong with me" in 2011. :) We'll get there!

    Lori--Getting to the end is such a challenge. I have faith in you!

    Laura--I love the way you write and revise--it seems so healthy! Keep on keeping on!

    Anita--I am absolutely not above bribing! Hope the holidays yielded some writing time for you.

    MT--Hello! I hope you had a wonderful holiday!! Thanks for stopping by!!

  15. Great post. I'm not close to the center of my metaphorical Tootsie roll pop, but I imagine I'll have a hard time biting into it.

    Um, I mean I'm a perfectionist and I know it's going to be hard for me to put down the red pen and ship it off. I guess at some point you need to cross your fingers and let it go.