By Sarah J. Maas
So, several months back, I posted a semi-tongue-in-cheek survival guide to revisions on my personal blog. Mostly, my must-have supplies included things like ten pounds of candy and sweatbands. And to be honest, I totally did need those things to get through revisions.
BUT having just sent in my final line edits for QUEEN OF GLASS (now onto copy edits!!!), I can look back at the trek through revisions and say that there is a LOT more to surviving it than twix, diet mountain dew, and neon-green sweatbands.
Some writers go through many, many rounds of revision. Personally, I went through two rounds, with a third, very small round of line edits. But each round taught me something new. From the small things (it’s “toward” not “towards”) to the larger-picture stuff, I feel like I’ve emerged from revisions knowing not just more about myself as a writer, but also more about my strengths as a person.
It’s different than working with your agent or your critique partner (though it’s similar in some ways). Mostly because with each round, you realize you’re getting closer to the final product—which you CANNOT change. There’s a sense of finality looming over the whole thing, and it pushes you to really, truly making sure you’re giving your all. It’s exciting to realize you are SO close to being published—it’s exhilarating, actually.
But there are the dark moments, too. The moments when you wonder if you’re just kidding yourself and your manuscript is a giant mess that you’ll never have enough time to fix, the moments when you think every word is garbage and you just want to go veg on the couch and pretend you don’t have a deadline to meet.
And those are the moments when you really need your #1 resource when surviving revisions: your writing friends. See, I spent years thinking that CPs and writer-friends were great for everything before the book deal—no one ever really told me how very important they are for the stuff after it.
They will talk you off ledges, they will reassure you that your work isn’t garbage, they will brainstorm with you for HOURS even though they have their own deadlines…They will hold your hand and never ask for anything in return, because they know exactly what you’re going through.
You’ll find yourself revealing your doubts and vulnerabilities—voicing the things that really terrify you, the dread so horrible it keeps you up at night. And you know what’s the most surprising thing you learn? You’re not alone in feeling that way. Because your friends either have faced or are facing the same fears and pressures and doubts.
Not to mention, when you get stuck during revisions, they know your work well enough to help you brainstorm your way out of it, or to just approve a semi-crazy idea that you have that miiight solve a plot problem. I cannot tell you how many times I emailed or IMed one of my CPs with a “What if I did THIS!?” question about QOG, or a “How do I fix THAT!?” complaint, and they helped me through it. Better than that—they made me EXCITED about those changes.
I’m a fairly independent person, and leaning on others doesn’t come naturally to me. But I realized, thanks to all of those emails and IMs and skype sessions, that revealing my vulnerabilities doesn’t make me weak, and voicing my fears doesn’t make me a coward. It makes me human—it allows people to get close to me and allows my relationships to grow.
I recently sent in the acknowledgments for QOG, and I honestly felt that I’d never have enough space to properly thank the people who helped me through this process—that WORDS don’t accurately convey the gratitude I feel. I don’t think I can ever fully convey that.
Revisions made me open myself up to others in ways I didn’t think I’d ever be comfortable doing—partially because I realized that no one EXCEPT my writer-friends would understand what I was going through. (Family and non-writer friends tend to give you “You’re amazing! It’ll be fine!” answers. Which are great, but not helpful.) I realized I NEEDED to have writing-friends who understood what I was going through–that I wouldn’t survive the process without them.
So, please, do me a favor: no matter where you are in the publishing journey–first drafting, querying, on submissions, already published–if you do one thing today, go tell your writing friends/CPs that you love them. Thank them for all they do for you. Because while writing a book might be a mostly solitary act, publishing one isn’t. And it shouldn’t be.
Sarah J. Maas has written several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA epic fantasy that will be published by Bloomsbury in Fall 2012. She is repped by Tamar Rydzinski of the Laura Dail Literary Agency, and resides with her husband in Southern California. You can visit her website here, and follow her on twitter.
And she loves her writer-friends & CPs very much. <3