Monday, April 11, 2011

The Beginning of Revisions and other updates

Last night I received notes from my agent on the Bartender Book. I didn't open the email because I knew it would send my mind racing. I figured I would try to get a good night's sleep. Then I'd get up, post this, workout, shower and dive in.

*GULP* Let the big scary part begin. I'm not gonna lie, I always fear this stage in the process, especially with a book I struggled so hard with like this one. I know it's not perfect, but in my mind it's pretty damn close, and due to some bad early writing workshop experiences (the reason I will always hate the Iowa-style workshop), I'm always afraid that my manuscript will be ripped to shreds with complete disregard for my feelings and I will dissolve into a puddle on the floor unable to write ever again.

Of course, it is never that bad. The first time I got an editorial letter from my editor at MTV Books, I thought I was going to die when I opened the file and saw that it was 17 pages long. Of course this was just because she listed a bunch of line edits, the bulk of the bigger changes were in the first page and a half and the best part was the end of the letter wherein she reminded me that I was the writer and any of her suggestions were exactly that, just suggestions, and we could discuss them if I felt they didn't fit with my vision for the book. As it turned out, I agreed with everything but one suggestion. I gave her my explanation for why I wanted to keep that particular aspect, she understood, and that was that. The rest of what she said only helped me improve the story. She raised questions that helped me to add new layers of depth to the book--she did this particularly with BALLADS because she called me out on emotionally distancing myself from Kara (which I did because Kara and teenage me have a lot in common and it was hard to go there, hence the resurfacing of my ulcer after those revisions, but it was fucking worth it because I've never been more proud of something I've done in my life.). She also went line by line and word by word to help me nail each one. Jen Heddle, my editor at MTV Books, is up there with my favorite teachers at Columbia College as one of the people who has helped me develop the most as a writer.

So, I know this, in my head, that getting editorial feedback from critique partners, agents and editors is an essential part of the process. With critique partners it is a little easier because my critique partners are fellow writers so they get that emotional attachment and all those insecurities. But agent and editor notes scare the shit out of me every time. Even though I know they aren't going to be like the no-nothing college students in that bad workshop experience I had who cruelly shit on your work just because knocking you down a peg makes them feel superior. (Hence I am an advocate of writing workshops that *generate* a lot of material and provide constructive feedback and criticism as opposed to turn a piece or two in per semester and get it ripped to shreds.) I know agents and editors know how to give constructive criticism, but I can't help it, still terrified. And this book, which has already caused me so much pain and suffering to figure out, which is on the long side, but has all these awesome parts I don't really want cut, it is particularly scary. But it's time and I know it.

I had my one week of vacation. I had one week of puttering around the house doing taxes and cleaning. And then I had a week where I tried to do some brainstorming of new things and it didn't really work out because I knew in the back of my head that I wasn't done. So I screwed around on the internet for most of last week. I decided to catch up on that whole Charlie Sheen drama because it happened while I was in the writing so I didn't understand this whole "Winning" and "Tiger Blood" thing that everyone else was talking about. And can I just say that after watching 15 minutes of an interview with him.... Ignorance, in this case, was definitely bliss. At that point, I decided I was bored of the internet, bored of celebrity gossip and I accomplished some more things that I'd let go for way too long. Like updating my website.

If you visit, you will find things like a link to a very cool tool for teaching or discussing BALLADS with a book group, new reviews of BALLADS, and coolest of all, a link to my Skype an Author profile, which I *finally* updated so that I can offer Skype visits to book clubs, writing groups, libraries, and schools that are not within driving distance of me and are looking for an affordable way to do a Q&A or hear one of my presentations.

Since I don't have a new book out, I'm not doing a ton of events, but I have a couple things coming up in Chicago, which I've also listed on my website here. This Friday, April 15, I am doing the Neutron Bomb Reading/Music event, which is me, a bunch of other punk authors and punk bands at 9 pm at Cal's Liquors at 400 S. Wells in Chicago. Since liquors is in the name, you probably get that it is 21 and over. If you are of age and in the Chicago area, come out to hear me read from the Bartender Book.

I'm also teaching a class on character development at StoryStudio Chicago on May 17th. I love talking about character and have a bunch of techniques for fleshing out characters that I am eager to share, so I love teaching this class. You can find more info and register here.

Anyway, so I updated all of that stuff and now I'm down to the tasks on my to-do list that have been on it for well over a year (ie. since I got married and changed my name.... I still have a lot of bills and shit I need to change my name on. I did the easy ones with online forms, but now I've got these people I have to call or fax or mail shit and yeah.... I just don't want to deal), it's time to get back into serious writing mode. I'm honestly lost at sea without it. If I don't have to follow my schedule, I get extremely A.D.D. and end up watching Charlie Sheen interviews and it's just bad.

Oh, but I should say that I don't plan to go all M.I.A. again like I did for the past few months... at least I hope I won't. I will be at the YA Outside The Lines blog this Wednesday and next Wednesday I am planning to bring Women Who Rock Wednesday back with a fabulous interview about one of the movements in punk that shaped me most, Riot Grrrl. And at the beginning of May, I'm going to change things up a bit in terms of Women Who Rock Wednesday... it's going to be like when Venus Zine put the very first guy, Jack White, on their cover. I will be bringing you a rockin' interview with a guy writer. And I hope to keep bringing you news about my successes and struggles with this book as well as those personal memories and musings I tend to overshare at least once or twice a week. I am aiming for more balance in my life basically. We'll see if I succeed this time.

But now I have to do it. Dive back into the book. So here I go.... Revising time.


Annika said...

You will whip this bartender book into shape! I know it's a little scary but you can do it.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Thanks Annika!!!