Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On Revision and Deadlines

It's taken my ten-year-old son all summer to get to a story that I asked him to polish , but once he put his mind to it, he made two rounds of revision, wrote a cover letter and sent it off. To Stone Soup! Wish him luck.

By the time football season ends he should find out whether or not his story was accepted. He'll be spared a letter of rejection since they only respond if they are interested. Regardless, I am proud of him. He wrote a terrific first draft last year for a salmon unit in class. I didn't see it until this year and I was impressed with his natural sense of story, the vivid language -- specific nouns and active verbs. The story sparkled. I knew with a couple of rounds of revision it could be dazzling.

It's not easy to get a child to revise a story. I do workshops in schools and kids don't really care for revision -- they wrote a story and that's that. I like to show them the process and show how much fun it can be to say what you mean, to choose words carefully and what a difference even small changes make in clarity. Although most children enjoy the workshop, they don't make it a habit to revise their work unless they have to. My son included. So I gave him a deadline -- before the summer is over, I wanted that story polished and out in the mail. And he did it with a week to spare. Yes!!!

That's what I need -- for my mother to tell me to finish my book or else!

So tell me how you finish projects? Do you obey self-imposed deadlines or do you need a nudge from a critique partner? Or do you only finish the projects that you've got a contract and deadline for?


Joanna Ruth Meyer said...

Aw, I hope his story gets accepted! I was published in Stone Soup in 1998 and it's still my best pub. credit to date. :-)

How do I finish projects? I wasn't very good at it until I got hooked on NaNoWriMo, which taught me the awesome power of a rigid deadline, even if it's self-inflicted. I keep a notebook for random ideas, so I can jot them down whilst I'm in the middle of a Project and don't have to get distracted with their shininess (well at least not TOO distracted :-)).

Jen Heger said...

I fear I am much akin to the younger students who don't like to revise. My work usually sits for at least 18 months before I rework it. There is a fine line between work that is composting and a writer's reluctance to be disciplined!

Vijaya said...

Joanna, how cool that you're published in Stone Soup! I hear you on the shiny new idea wanting attention when the middle or revisions get tough ... this is why I have two unfinished novels. Third one's got to be the charm, no?

Jen, hee hee -- yes, I often say I'm composting, too :)

laurasalas said...

Good luck to your son! And congratulations to him on revising it and sending it out--farther than many adult writers get:>)

I use self-imposed deadlines for my trade projects. I put them on my calendar and generally stick to them very well unless I get buried under deadlines for work under contract.

But I do have one novel rough draft that I just can't bring myself to revise. I'm overwhelmed. Ugh.

Vijaya said...

Good for you for sticking to the self-imposed deadlines, Laura. That's not easy. Do you reward yourself or is the work reward in and of itself?

I find that after I've put in the effort I'm always happy, but I don't know why I have to psych myself to do it.

I hear you on the novel revision. I suppose you do have to clear your plate a little bit for that. I bet you'll get to it when the time is right. And if it's now -- get busy girl!