Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I bought my own book!...or, what I learned during revisions

I know that title is probably a tad confusing, so allow me to explain. The whole "I bought my own book" thing simply means that, well, I bought my own book (haha!). Sorry. Ahem. What I mean is that I decided to put my "book" on one of those fancy-schmancy book-printing websites and create a cover and format all my pages to their standards and pay a tiny bit of money and wait anxiously by the mailbox and grab my book from said mailbox and rip open the box and ogle the finished product. author's note: I promise I don't write run-on sentences like this in real life.

"What does that mean?" I hear you all asking. Which leads to the second part of the title, "or, what I learned during revisions". After I completed the first draft of my MS, I shelved it for a few days before opening it back up and printing out a copy to tackle revisions. To say that the entire idea of revising what I had spent so much time writing was a bit overwhelming is a major understatement. Was I seriously going to delete words or paragraphs or *gulp* pages from my story? I couldn't imagine doing it. No way.

But I knew it had to be done, so I dove in and revised. And after that first round of revisions, I of course felt that the story was better. Not perfect by any means, but better. So I shelved it again and let the original ideas marinate with the revised ideas to see what I could come up with to change next. What?!! More revisions? NO!! Absolutely not!
I'm sure we all know what comes next, right? Yep, more revisions. So, I printed out yet another copy of my MS (my apologies to the trees harmed during my revision process) and started doing what I could. author's note: I'm horrible at revisions, so "doing what I could" isn't really that much. After making a second pass, I once again put the story away for a little while, mainly so my over-worked brain could have a break. Once again, though, that pesky Revision Bug started gnawing at me, and this time I didn't even bother to protest. I gave in and opened my document, ready to print out yet another copy.

But this time, an idea struck me.

I said, "Hey, what about printing an actual book copy of your MS?"
"You mean, like a real book?" I asked myself.
"Yep. Like a real book."

And so, I hopped on the internet to see where I could buy a nice, bound copy of my MS. It didn't take long to find several websites offering this service, so I picked one and went from there. And that website was Lulu.com. And the result was rewarding in so many ways.

Not only did I get an actual book with my name on it and my hard work inside (okay, I know it's not technically a book since it wasn't technically published, but I can dream), but I also got what I think is one of the best tools for revising out there: your work, in book form, for you to read...like a real book!

Sounds simple, right? We all love to read (if you don't, then what are you doing here?), and we all know how easy it is to get lost in a book and not come up for air until we turn that last page. So what better way to find out how good your own writing is than to read it like a book?

I had thought when I printed my MS on my own printer (on those large, garish, white pages) that it would make revising much easier than staring at the computer screen. And it did. But trying to read them that way wasn't so easy. And since nothing beats reading a book, I thought maybe nothing would beat revising a book that way, too.

So when I opened to the first page of my "book" and started reading, the entire story played out in my head, just like it does when I read any book. It was amazing. I could see my characters come to life like a movie, and I could hear their dialogue and I could feel what my MC was feeling...I loved it! And, just like I had suspected, I could see where my story needed work.

Big and loud and slapping me in the face, the problems in my MS -- from misspelled words I thought I had fixed to lagging plot points and flat dialogue -- were so much clearer. But now I had a much better grasp on which areas needed work and which ones were pretty good. So all I had to do was open up my word document and get to work. And if I ran into a problem that I couldn't figure out, I could always go back and re-read my book!

Tell me what you guys think about having your MS in book form. Think it would help you in revising? No? Discuss!


Jordan Dane said...

OMG, I've never heard this before. I know there's a disconnect between the initial manuscript & a "real book" but seeing my typos in a finished-looking product would be a nightmare for me, like reinforcing the negative. It's really cool to read your work & feel like a reader & not an author though.

Ha! You cracked me up with this post, Jamie.

Dan Haring said...

Great post Jamie! I'd never thought of doing that, but it sounds like a really good idea. Is there a setup fee or anything? Just wondering how much it costs to do one of those.

CS Perryess said...

Fascinating idea.
I imagine that having it in book form would add something akin to the distance one gets by letting it gestate a while before tackling a Big Edit, only it would help one focus on different aspects. Great idea.