There are two reasons I’ve been dying to go to a Darcy Pattison Novel Revision Retreat:
1. I keep getting requests for my work, but rejections on my full manuscripts. I know I’m doing something right with my premises/first chapters, but I need to get better at executing a whole novel.
2. I tend to spin my wheels when I revise. My process so far is: 1. Write novel 2. Revise till I’m sick of it. 3. Send to critique partners. 4. Revise some more. 5. Repeat ad nauseam. I knew there had to be a more organized approach.
I’m happy to say that I now finally have better revision tools, thanks to Darcy.
First, a little bit about the retreat. This has been the most intensive retreat I’ve ever been to. Prior to the retreat, I read two books on craft, finished a full draft of a novel, and read three manuscripts from the people I’d been working with at the conference. Whew! And most of that reading occurred during December, a busy month to say the least.
My wonderful small group:
|Clockwise from the back: Sabina Rascol, me, Christina Larrechea, Johanna Wright|
But all that prep work was worth it. At the retreat, you were placed in a small group with the three people who had read your novel. The retreat was structured so that we had whole group time, where Darcy would discuss a particular topic in terms of revision (plotting, characters, setting, etc.), then we’d have time to analyze our own novels for how we did on that particular trait, and then we’d have small group discussion time to discuss how we each did on that trait and how we could improve.
I have to say that those discussions were amazing. I’ve been in critique groups and I’ve traded full manuscripts many times, but to be able to brainstorm and discuss your whole novel with three people who know it really well—that was amazing. I went home with ideas on not just what was working/what wasn’t, but how to fix it.
In addition to the small group time, I think my biggest aha was the shrunken manuscript. If you haven’t heard of it (are you hiding under a rock?), it is a method of reducing the font and white space so you can print your whole ms out in 30 pages or so. Directions are on Darcy's blog.
It was nerve wracking to lay mine out for not only Darcy, but the whole group (20 people) to comment on. What I gleaned: I have a sagging middle, I need to beef up my protagonist and antagonist’s interactions, and I have a lot of talking scenes back-to-back. I don’t think I could’ve seen anything of these things with my usual method of analyzing my manuscript, which is writing an outline of the scenes.
Now I’m home and the hard work begins, but what I love about this retreat is that I now have a plan. I will continue to utilize my amazing beta readers and critique partners, but I no longer feel like I am dependent on their input to see problems in my manuscripts.
|Me with my friend Kristin Bruschell, one of my regular critique partners|
As Darcy said at the retreat, her goal was for us to be able to self-edit our work. I think I can finally do that now.
If Darcy is not offering a retreat in your area, another option if you’d like to replicate it at home is to use her Novel Metamorphosis: Uncommon Ways to Revise, 2nd edition. Everything from the retreat is in that book—you’d just need to find a few people to trade manuscripts to discuss things for the small group sections. I guarantee that just doing that will up your game as a writer and reviser.
Have you tried the shrunken manuscript method? What is the most helpful writing event you've attended?