Hey, hey! As many of you know, I just got back from an amazing and transformative meditation retreat with David Chernikoff up at Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado. I’ll be telling you all about that later, but suffice to say: retreats are absolutely necessary for our growth as humans and as writers. It was profoundly life-changing for me. Since I’ve got retreats on the mind, I’m (of course) thinking of the Pneuma Fall Retreat coming up this October 9 – 14 at the Highlights Retreat Center in PA.
I’m kicking off my revision series to share my love of this major part of our craft with a dear friend of mine that I met on tour for HarperCollins way back in 2014: the kickass NYT Bestselling author, Amy Ewing. Her books are luscious, with lots of world-building, vulnerable characters, and imagination galore. She brings all five senses to the page, which I love. I distinctly remember us both being bleary-eyed on tour and running through her magic system on a plane to somewhere, trying to figure out how to get where she wanted to go with Book 2 of her series, which began with the much-loved YA The Jewel. Amy was kind enough to jump on board and talk to me a bit about her revision process. We actually had an experience of revising together recently, as she’s a contributor in Dear Heartbreak: YA Authors and Teens on the Dark Side of Love, the anthology I’m editing that comes out from Macmillan this December.
I hope that you find this interview as inspiring and fascinating as I did, and that it encourages you on your own revision journey. For so many people, revision is terrifying – but it doesn’t have to be! That’s why I’m leading a retreat this October with the fabulous Ingrid Sundberg to dig into how to fall in love with re-visioning your book and process, make a plan, and create a little magic. Plus: great food, fall colors, meditation, and the writer sisterhood in one of my favorite places on Earth.
Without further ado, here we go!
- 2 Part Question: How do you feel about revision? How have your feelings about revision changed over time, especially as you’ve grown professionally?
I love revising, though I always find whatever part of the process I’m in, I long for the part I’m not doing. When first drafting I yearn for revisions and vice versa. Starting a revision is usually the hardest part—there’s the overwhelming sense of Too Much To Do. You feel like you’re juggling chainsaws. I think I’ve gotten better over time at just acknowledging the feelings and letting them pass through me instead of rule me. You can’t revise everything all at once, and I try and remind myself that I’m not writing in stone. I’ve also gotten better at handling that first edit letter which still, after four books, delivers a hell of a sting. But listening to your editor is crucial so I always give myself time to digest her suggestions fully before I dive into revising.
- Do you have any kind of revision process and, if so, what is it?
Whenever I start a new revision, I open a brand new document then copy and paste one chapter into it at a time. This helps with the chainsaw juggling—I only focus on a little piece and then another little piece then another. I look at my editor’s notes, apply them along with whatever else I want to revise, then copy and paste chapter two. The worst is when you realize you have to scrap chapters and write entirely new ones, and the road map you thought you made for the story in the first draft is useless. It’s always for the best and makes the book so much better but it’s brutal to lose all those words!
- Do you revise as you draft or do you wait until a draft is completed to go back in?
I do a little bit of both. I’m not precious with my first drafts because I know how significantly books change over the revision process. But I’ll discover things as I’m writing and be like, Oh yeah this should be mentioned earlier. So once I have a good chunk, I’ll stop and go back and add things in or tweak or streamline or cut.
- How do you know your book is as good as you can get it?
Hahaha, I don’t! I don’t think any author ever feels their book is really truly done. But I trust my editor and my beta readers and at some point, you just have to let it go.
- Many writers are totally freaked out about revision. What advice would you give to your fellow writers about re-visioning their work?
I truly believe revision is where the book becomes what it’s meant to be. There’s something very scary about that but also incredibly exciting. Be patient and gentle with yourself. Find a system that works for you. Like I said, revisions are not set in stone. If you try something and it doesn’t work, you can always try something else. I had to cut a major plot point after I finished a huge revision for THE CERULEAN and it killed me to have to go back but it was cut for a reason and I was ultimately really happy that I was willing to let go instead of hold on to something that wasn’t working.
Amy Ewing is the author of the New York Times bestselling Lone City trilogy. She lives in New York City, navigating the minefield that is single city living and traveling as much as possible to soothe the heartbreaks along the way. You can find her at amyewingbooks.com, and on Twitter and Instagram (@amyewingbook).
Ready to do this thing? Then sign up! Early birds get $100 off until July 1st and sign-ups close entirely on August 1st. There are only 16 spots, so hustle your bustle (mindfully, of course). 🙂
Breathe. Write. Repeat.