Bulldozer Revisions and Creative Courage

Sorry I haven’t been around much, folks. Life has been really busy, which gives me plenty to write about but not much time to actually sit down and write. Then there’s the fact that I’m going through the querying process, and while plenty is happening, I don’t think it’s wise to share it all in such a public forum. One day I will tell you all about it. Promise.

One bit of news I can tell you: We bought a house! We’ve been looking forever, and getting a bit sick of it all, to be honest. The other weekend we all shook hands and vowed that if we hadn’t found a house by next September we would all move to Canada. We found our house that same day.

So, what with making offers, organizing finance, inspections and now figuring out renovations and moving dates, things have been hectic. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t found time to write. I’m almost finished the first draft of the Just For Fun novel, but I’m taking a break to head into revisions with another.

These aren’t like any other revisions I’ve ever done. Awhile back I wrote a post on revision tools. I made three categories: Jackhammer, Scalpel and Feather-duster. I didn’t know it then but I missed a category and I want to talk about it now: Bulldozer Revisions.

Bulldozer revisions mean leveling your draft down to its very foundation and building back up from there. It means starting over. From scratch.

The reason I missed talking about Bulldozer revisions in my last post is because I’ve never really done them. Because to operate a Bulldozer you need two things: A helmet and a key. I’m starting to think this metaphor is getting out of hand, but let me break it down for you.

The Helmet

In order to level your manuscript and start over, you need protection. You need to know if things go awry, you won’t be broken. You won’t be lost. Your helmet is your confidence in your own abilities and in the story you are trying to tell. Before you head into a revision of this scale, you need to have a really strong sense of what you’re trying to achieve with the story. It can be discouraging to write a kazillion drafts and then realize you have to Bulldoze it all, but for me, those kazillion drafts, the kazillion wrong turns, are the only way I can get to the RIGHT path. Your helmet means knowing your story and characters really well. Sure, you can operate a bulldozer without a helmet, but it’s not recommended.

The Key

When I was querying my first novel there was one agent who was really interested, but she pointed out one aspect of my novel that made it hard to place in the market. I had an opportunity to revise my manuscript to make it a better fit, but I was scared. I’d spent a year and a half on this story and the idea of starting over made me want to puke. I revised, but I picked the wrong tool. I tried to scalpel my way to a stronger novel, when really it needed a bulldozer. Needless to say, I never sold that first novel.

Have you guessed what the Key is yet?

In order to perform a Bulldozer revision, above all you need courage.

I didn’t have that back then, but I do now.

 

Here’s the thing: Your key and your helmet go hand in hand. I didn’t have the courage to bulldoze that first novel because I didn’t have confidence in myself or my story. And in order to build that confidence you need to have enough courage to take chances.

One caveat: Bulldozing your novel isn’t always the best path. Maybe you’re awesome enough to get it done right the first time. Or maybe you would learn more by starting something completely new. If someone asks you to perform a bulldozer revision, don’t just jump right in. Make sure their vision lines up with yours, make sure you have the right tools, make sure this is something you really want to do. If I was honest with myself, I would have been better off just moving on to the next novel rather than doing a hatchet job on my first one. I didn’t yet have what it takes.

So before you put yourself through the stress of a Bulldozer revision, make sure you have two things: Confidence (in yourself and in your story) and Courage.

Wish me luck!

This is my wallpaper right now, free from Australia.com. My to-be-bulldozed story is set in the Blue Mountains 🙂
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Bulldozer Revisions and Creative Courage

2 thoughts on “Bulldozer Revisions and Creative Courage

  1. Fantastic post, Beth! I remember loving your jackhammer/scalpel/duster analogy, and this is a great addition. And yeah, you totally need confidence and courage to tackle a bulldozer revision!

    Also, huge congrats on the house! I would’ve loved it if you moved to Canada, though, LOL, but this way if I ever get to visit Australia, I will have someone to visit. 🙂

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