Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How to Self Publish Part 2: Revision

Revision is a crucial step in self publishing. Do not assume that your work is perfect. It isn't.

I revised the crap out my novel, but I didn't do as much as I should have.

I recommend AT LEAST EIGHT revision passes, probably more would be better. Each time you will look for errors, typos, and mistakes, cut out things that aren't working, add in better descriptions, remove passive voice and overuse of adverbs, and slash any cliches you find.

You need to revise until you don't want to read another word, until you are sick of your novel, hate it, want it dead. Your eyes will bleed with hours of staring at the computer screen or pages you printed out to mark up.

Are you done at this point? NO!!

Then you need to give it to someone you trust, someone who will be somewhat brutal with you and have them go through it a couple times. This also gives you a break from the manuscript so you can come back to it a few weeks later and go through it several more times.

You will reach a point where you want to take your book out back and set it on fire and then dance on the ashes, screaming at the gray sky in despair and agony. That is when you are close to done.

You should set it aside and wait a few more weeks before doing one final revision to the entire book.

Your next step? Make sure you have a thick skin because people are still going to find typos and mistakes. They will seize these typos like some hard won prize and then shove them in your face.

Why do people do this? I don't know.

Maybe people's expectations are skewed when it comes to books. They expect perfection, demand it, more than it seems any other industry.

I had a podcast review after I had fixed many typos that readers had found and I thought the book was close to perfect. The reviewers talked about how they loved the rich world I'd created, complete with mythology and back histories. They loved that every character felt unique and different as I hopped in and out of a dozen character's heads. They loved the story. Then they had to mention that it had an "unusually high amount of homophone mistakes." They went on to list them, totalling two. TWO!!

My jaw fell open as I listened. Seriously? Two?

All around it was a great review, but I wish they would have emailed me about the two typos they found rather than dump them on the public as some black stain I can never get rid of.

In any other industry with that kind of mistake average, I'd be freaking Employee of the Month!

So, the point of all this ranting is REVISIONS ARE IMPORTANT. Do them, do them until you bleed! You will thank me.


Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

Okay, so would you have been happier if someone had just read your book and then given it four stars and mentioned nothing? Just the four stars with no feedback? I hear what you are saying but what is too much and what is too little?

My issue with reviews is that they are more than just a compass that says if something resonates or not. They are also a reflection of the person who read the book with all their quirks and everything.

Example: when my brother sees a spot on the garage floor, he will scrub it out with a toothbrush. All of the towels in the house hang at the same level. Everything is spotless. Other people don't mind it at all if you kick your shoes off and leave them in the middle of the floor while you watch t.v. and wipe cheeto crumbs off on your shirt.

My point is that personality is going to dictate how a person reviews. I don't think it's because a person willfully seeks to be mean to a writer (although this may happen). Mayhaps they have O.C.D. and fixate on things that they shouldn't and it spills over to other aspects of their life.

Let's look at Star Wars to illustrate my point. You know...there are tons of examples online where people point out all the glaring flaws in Star Wars such as the disappearing Star Fighter or the vest that appears and disappears on Han Solo. Call these bloopers, film inconsistencies, or whatnot, but it's clear that they bothered George Lucas because he's reworked these films over and over to make them perfect. And you know what...most of the edits that Lucas has done has pissed off his fanbase.

Just because someone offers up criticism to your work does not mean that they are not fans. It may in fact be a compliment in disguise because they read something that you wrote so carefully that they noticed small things. Why did they read it carefully? Because YOU matter. Because they took an interest in your words (every word). IN fact, they become some of the biggest supporters flaws and all. But they do notice them.

Anyway, that is my two cents on this topic. Maybe Elana Johnson is correct when she said on her blog that she doesn't think writers should ever read their reviews.

Charlie Pulsipher said...


I worried a little when I posted this that you would be upset with me. I'm writing this as a fairly serious guide, despite the cartoons, to people who want to self publish. I wanted to convince anyone interested in self publishing to revise as much as they possibly can. That means I wrote this post a bit over the top. Your review was fanfrickentastic, btw!

I agree that every person will review in a different way according to their personality, quirks, likes, and dislikes. I recently got a one star review from someone who read my zombie guide, but hates anything zombie related. Don't know why she read it, but I was very gracious and nice to her even though the review hurt and will be on goodreads forever.

I just want future self publishers to know what they are signing up for. If they aren't ready for criticism, they need to choose a different path. I in no way wrote this to offend anyone who has given me a review or will give me a review. I respect their opinions. I just want future writers to thicken their skins, but at the same time empathize with those who have already published. No one should give a false review, but I like people to send me typos personally so I can fix them and improve my craft with the next novel.

I am also very thankful for my fans and their interest in my words, thoughts, and the random drivel I put on social networking and my blog. YOU matter, Michael, more than me. You and other readers are why I keep writing when a one star review punches me in the heart or lagging sales make me want to give up and run back to the soul-crushing jobs of the past. Don't be upset with me, my friend. I need you and those like you.

You and Elana Johnson may be right though.

Emily White said...

Yup, completely agree. Thick skin is needed. And revision, piled upon revision, piled upon revision is absolutely required. I think a lot of self-pubbers forget that. The only reason writers with editors remember it, though, is because the editor keeps demanding perfection (despite the eyeball bleeds).

And yes, I have to agree with Michael. Just ignore the reviews. They're for the readers, anyway. And there's no way a book will please everyone. I mean, can you name any book that has?

Andrew Leon said...

Well... when I review your book, I plan to be as harsh as possible! bwah hah hah hah!

I had intended it to be my next book, but, when I went to buy it the other day (for the kindle), I decided to order a hard copy instead. But I haven't done that, yet. I have to figure out what I'm ordering with it to get the free shipping.

I know what you mean about homophones. I had a very embarrassing one pointed out to me the other day. The funny thing, though, is that it took this long for anyone to notice it. heh
But he loved the book and wasn't critisizing; he was just letting me know it was there.

DB Stewart said...

Too homophones?

Charlie Pulsipher said...

Emily, whenever a bad review gets me down I actually go find reviews of books and authors I adore, like Brandon Sanderson, Jasper Fforde, and Tad Williams. It always makes me feel better to see that people don't always get them either. They're literary masters and still get bad reviews. Makes me feel like I'm in good company, but nothing beats thick skin.

Charlie Pulsipher said...

Andrew, I'm excited for you to read it and I will accept any review you give, harsh or glowing or harshly glowing. Get on it already! My homophones weren't too embarrassing. They were off the wall ones like vice and vise that many of us get wrong, but I was happy to fix them.

Charlie Pulsipher said...

dbs, exactly! Just too!

Brent Wescott said...

Not that I know anything, but my thought is that a professional editor would catch language mistakes, and then you can blame the editor if he or she still missed stuff.

And anyone who doesn't like Jasper Fforde is a dunderhead. Yeah, I said it.

Charlie Pulsipher said...

Yes, Brent, but most of us self-pub types don't have the cash for professional editors and the fault will usually fall back on the author either way.

And I know, right? Jasper Fforde is the man!

Alyson Burdette said...

I'm in the camp that believes authors shouldn't read their reviews, unless someone brings one to their attention (eg hey read this awesome review!) Authors who focus on criticism may end up changing their writing style to try and please others, and that can't be a good thing for everyone.

Martin Willoughby said...

No matter how much editing you do, there'll always be someting else you could/should have done.

Just mash it until you;re sick of it, let someone else read it, then have done with it. As for typos, even the professionals miss them.

Charlie Pulsipher said...

Alyson, probably very true, though I have no plans of changing my writing style. I'm still doing more than one genre with my next book and way too many characters :)

Charlie Pulsipher said...

Martin, true, I find typos in every book I read and then I keep reading without them bothering me much. But, for some reason people seem to nit-pick about/focus on them more if they know the author self published.

Charlie Pulsipher said...

I recently went through my book again and I found over fifty typos and misuses of verb tenses like "sunk" when it should have been been "sank". I apologize to everyone who has read my book and especially to those who reviewed it. It definitely did have some editing problems. I should have followed my own advice and revised it more.

Fixing all the mistakes I found right now. I'm so glad I can do that easily. My goal is to eventually have a review that wonders at the comments of previous reviewers because they found few to no editing problems. That would be the best review ever.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...