It's coming close to the one-year anniversary of me typing THE END on this WIP of mine on August 15th last year. As a pantster I knew I had tons of revision ahead of me, that THE END was merely the beginning... But I never imagined exactly how much, or how tough it would be.
Between August and January I submitted about half the novel to my critique group, the Internet Writing Workshop, chapter by chapter, and a few critters (critics) asked to read the whole thing as well. I got excellent feedback that made me realize some pretty important truths: I used "smile", "grin", and "laugh" waaaaay too often. I had a story with a lot of potential that left readers feeling unsatisfied at the end. I had lots of talking-head scenes. I'd set the story in Mexico, but the reader got little sense of place--these conversations could be taking place anywhere. Tension could be, kindly put, enhanced.
So I edited, revised, rewrote, tweaked, cut & pasted, shifted, deleted, added.
In February I attended my first writers' conference. I printed out the first chapter of my novel, carried it around with me on the off-chance someone--anyone--would want to read it.
Out of nine agents I pitched, seven asked for more. Whoo-hoo, right?
Because Fate tends to be kinder to me than I deserve, I somehow decided to let a professional editor take a look at this "highly polished" WIP of mine before sending it to these agents. Just in case.
Lo and behold, I found out my precious "polished" WIP was at best a sorta shaped chunk of rock. Was there a diamond inside? Yeah, maybe. But my editing was nowhere near done.
So I began working with two editors, and found out some more about my magnum opus. That tension? Yeah, lots of ratcheting up necessary. Missed opportunities for conflict. My protags had life much too easy to make good literature. And--did I mention verbosity?
Lots of that, too.
"Be ruthless," the editor said. And I was. I cut the MS from 106K to just over 52K in a month. And then began the rewrite.
Rewrite's almost finished. I expect to send the finished MS to the editor within a week, maybe two. I also expect she'll have some more suggestions for me--in fact, I hope so. It'll probably take me another month to get those revisions incorporated, and then I'll be ready to query. Set the MS forth into the world and see what we're really made of, she and I. [Yes, my MS is female.]
What have I learned? There's something to be said for outlining. At least in the roughest sense. Planning what each chapter or scene needs to achieve. Keeping in mind all those threads of character development, upping tension, raising stakes--that takes planning, no way around it. At least not as a beginner. Perhaps, one day, I'll be able to do this organically.
I have a writer friend that does that, cranks out manuscript after manuscript that not only brings to life characters of amazing humanity and larger-than-life presence, the kind that stay with you long after you've closed the book, and plots of such complexity, conflict of such tension you race down page after page just to find out what the hell's going on and what's going to happen, but also language of unearthly beauty. He's one of those people that manages to convey the bitterest angst, the most sublime love, in the simplest metaphors. No fancy words, no rambling sentences--just pure and direct meaning that clangs straight to the heart. His name is James Lockhart Perry, and if you have the chance to read his stuff, please do.
Anyway. That's where I'm at. Up to my neck in revisions, climbing out an inch a day.