Ken Scholes (kenscholes) wrote,
Ken Scholes

Process Question on Revision

 So, I had a process question come across the email from a friend of mine.  He asked how I handle revision in my writing and invited me to post the answer so here I am.

Back when I was much newer, I tried out crit-groups to help me identify problems and found they were not really useful for me after a point.  I think it's important for writers to try, though, and to spend at least a handful of weeks giving and getting critiqued in that way just for the experience of it.  If you do go with a group, find one that has a mix of people slightly ahead and slightly behind you in their writing career.  And keep in mind that as your skills grow, you're crit group may not. and your needs may change. 

Later, I evolved a group of first readers that has changed over time as I've grown and stretched as a writer.  Most days, they rarely suggest changes on the short stuff.  When I wrapped LAMENTATION they were very helpful.  I used Word's merge documents feature and could then see their changes by name. 

Typically, I submit what I'd call first draft plus polish these days but that was not always so.  It took me some time to learn the rhythms of storytelling.  Broken stories getting careful revision, sometimes up to three or four passes.  Over time, that shrunk.  My one first reader from those days (bravado111) looked at everything I wrote and we often had long conversations on how to fix things.  But as I grew, I started internalizing the storytelling process more and more.  Now days, there are rarely any big fixes necessary in the short stuff but I still run my work through at least some of my first readers before going out to market.  Basically, whichever of them has the time and if none do, I give it a once over and put it out to market.

I usually do not do more than one pass at a story unless an editor asks for changes.  Here's one reason:  I will always write yesterday's story better tomorrow.  In other words, we keep growing as writers with everything we write, so really, we could work on a story for years and always find something new to do with it.  I resist that.  I think it's what keeps a lot of writers never moving forward.  They get stuck in re-write loops and pretty soon you realize they've only written five stories that they continue to improve upon and improve upon.  And often, it's trying to fit a new patch over old cloth.

Here's another reason:  Say you hope to sell that story to XYZ Market for (gasp) $300!  That's not horrible money for a short story.  Now, if you took 30 hours to write it, you're roughly making $10 per hour.  If you took 10 hours, you're making $30 per hour...5 hours (gasp) = $60.  Now, we can go on about our art -- trust me, I feel fairly artistic at times -- but the bottom line is that time is still money.  As we transition away from writing "because we feel like it" to "writing because it's a job", those considerations start to become more important.  Because then, we not only have tales we're spinning but we have workplans and business goals and....well, you see where I'm headed.  Novels are a different animal because it's new to me and for the first time, I've got an editor working with me who's there to help the story sing.   So I'll post more on that after CANTICLE has gone through its editorial process. 

Speaking of time investment into short stories:  Recently, I attended a workshop taught by Denise Little and Dean Wesley Smith (with occasional guest appearances by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.)  Here's what I saw:  We had over a month to write a 3-6k short story for an anthology.  Then, at the workshop, we had about a day to write another one for a different anthology.  We read all of the stories; Dean and Denise did as well -- and offered us comments.

In most instances, the quality of writing was better on the second round of stories -- the ones written faster and with no time to revise.

Oh, and I see there was a follow-on question.  He asked also about whether or not the editors ask for revisions on the stories I sell with little to no revision on them.  The basic answer is sometimes but not often.  Oddly enough, the markets to request the most in revision from me are the lower paying, small press markets.  I think the only revision a larger market has asked for was when Weird Tales asked me to get rid of the word "fuck" in a story.  Those are easy changes to handle.  

Okay, off to the Named Lands with me.  After I find more coffee....
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