Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Wednesday Writing Workout: Befriending the Revision Monster

Today I'm happy to share a guest Wednesday Writing Workout from Illinois author Shirin Shamsi.

Shirin was born and raised in the UK to immigrant parents from Pakistan. She moved to the United States where she raised three wonderful human beings who are doing great things in the world.
Shirin always wanted to write stories in which her children would see themselves. Living on three different continents gave her a global perspective and she dreams of writing stories that inspire empathy. You can read more about her at her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Shirin's most recent book is the middle-grade novel Laila and the Sands of Time (Spork). Here's a brief summary:

Thirteen-year-old Laila, still grieving over her father's death, goes on their planned pilgrimage to Mecca with her aunt and uncle. While on pilgrimage, Laila is transported back in time to 7th-century Arabia. There she faces the dangers of the desert, takes on a disguise, and saves a baby's life. But will she ever return to her own time?

Here's Shirin's Wednesday Writing Workout.
Wednesday Writing Workout:
Befriending the Revision Monster
by Shirin Shamsi

I began writing Laila and the Sands of Time when my eldest daughter asked me to write a chapter book. At the time I considered myself a picture book author only.

The journey has been a long road. I learned much from it. I was a total "pantser" before and now try to be a plotter, so hopefully I am becoming a bit of both.

I feared revision before. In fact, I believe it was the fear of revision that made procrastination much more palatable to me. My fear of revision grew and grew until it became a monster.

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

Let’s face it, if you love writing then revision is going to be your companion for the duration of your writing career. It has taken a lot of time, patience, and perseverance, but I now come to revision with the same excitement I bring to writing a rough draft. Revision and I are now best friends.
From the time I signed the contract for Laila and the Sands of Time to the moment when I held it in my hands, it took two whole years. During that time I went back and forth with my editor. Without my amazing editor, I feel my book would not have been as good. It was a learning process for me, being my first middle grade novel. I was impatient to see my story in print, but even when I thought my story was perfect, my editor made it shine. Our constant back and forth conversations and revision made my book the best it could be.

I feel so passionate about revision that I would like to share a few ideas here with you:
  1. When you feel your story is complete, put it away. Let it rest.
  2. When you read it again, ask yourself if every fact has been researched. For Laila, I had to research a lot about 7th-century Arabia. I feared getting the facts wrong.
  3. Also ask yourself: Does everything make sense? Is every page interesting?
  4. Each time you revise, approach your work with a new goal, such as word choice, tone, factual details, story arc, plot.
  5. Go through each page to cut out the “widows” and “orphans” at the beginning and end of each page. It will make for a cleaner and tighter story.
  6. Read your story as though someone else has written it. Does it still excite you? If your answer is “YES” then you are ready to share your story with the world.
Revision is a lengthy process. I think of it as excavation. We have to dig deep, cut through hard obstacles to get to our gem of a story.
Image by PaulaPaulsen from Pixabay
Good luck. Keep writing. Keep revising.
Thank you, Shirin, for today's Wednesday Writing Workout. Readers, I hope you'll try her suggestions. If you do, please let us know how they work for you.

Posted by Carmela


Esther Hershenhorn said...

Thank YOU, Shirin, for these revision gems!
YAY YOU for overcoming your Revision Monster so the world now holds LAILA for young readers!
Your Fan Esther

Mary Ann Rodman said...

Great post with excellent suggestions. I happen to enjoy revision, but that doesn't mean I know what I'm doing. Your suggestions include.a few I can add to my process. Thanks!

Jarm Del Boccio said...

Thanks for the revision tips, Shirin! I look forward to reading your book very soon.

Natalie Cohn said...

This was a great post! I am still working on a middle grade novel for almost two years, now. Revisions are tedious and I’m wondering if I should just send it to an editor to get it looked at to speed up the process? This post was helpful! Thanks!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Shirin ~ Thank you for contributing to TeachingAuthors. Here's what I remember most from your post:
•The journey has been a long road. I learned much from it. I was a total "pantser" before and now try to be a plotter, so hopefully I am becoming a bit of both. [This made me think...perhaps we CAN be both at different times]
•revision = a monster...yes, that's sometimes how it feels.

And just as you put your story away to rest, my metaphor is to put it on the back burner on low and let it cook.

Thanks again and congratulations ~