Today I am so pleased to welcome Maggie Kavanagh to Joyfully Jay. Maggie has come to talk to us about her latest release, Inner Sanctum (The Stonebridge Mysteries, Book #2). She has also brought along a book to give away. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Sometimes it Hurts: Let’s Talk About Revision
First off, I’d like to thank Jay for hosting me today for my Inner Sanctum blog tour. This is my first visit to her blog, and I’m very happy to be here! Inner Sanctum is the second book in the Stonebridge Mysteries series and the sequel to Double Indemnity, which was released earlier this year. These books chart the course of the relationship of the two main characters, Sam and Nathan, and should be read in order if at all possible. Each also develops a new mystery, though there are interweaving threads through all three.
What I want to talk about today is the dreaded ‘r’ word: revision. I used to be an English instructor, and I taught college writing courses where the main emphasis was on process, from the initial idea, to the first draft, through revision, to the ‘final’ draft. This concept is often foreign to students, who are used to banging out an essay the night before the due date handing it in with only the most cursory spell check. I understand, because once upon a time I was one of those students too. Of course, when you decide to write professionally, you start taking revision a little more seriously. You realize that cutting text is just as important as polishing and reshaping it. If you are writing novels, you realize you might have to chop a whole chapter, or worse, maybe two or three.
Even though I taught in a classroom for ten years, I didn’t personally understand the meaning of revision until I began Inner Sanctum.
I rewrote this novel almost completely after the first draft, and it was one of the most frustrating and ultimately rewarding experiences of my writing life. After feedback from the publisher, I realized it wasn’t doing what it needed to do. As a second book in a series, the trajectory needed to be just as compelling, if not more so, than the first—and it wasn’t. The mystery lacked tension and the relationship between the MCs didn’t have the same flair. I’d written it too quickly to make a deadline, and I had suspected there were problems. Now I had to fix them.
After you’ve written a 60K+ novel, the prospect of starting almost from scratch—of entirely eradicating one storyline and replacing it with another—is daunting, to say the least. I may have cried. I definitely ate a pint of ice cream. And then I got to work. My strategies for revision sound a little like twelve-step program, but here goes:
1) Recognize you have a problem. This is maybe the hardest step. When you pour your heart—and all your time—into creating something that turns out to be not so great, it is painful to scrap it. We are all our own worst critics, and there are times when the voice of self-doubt is not accurate or helpful, but there are also times it is very important. If you suspect there are problems in the narrative, and you try to convince yourself they don’t matter, but still they bother you, well, that’s a warning sign.
2) Get dispassionate feedback. So you think there might be something wrong in your book? Get someone you don’t know personally to read it—better yet, get 3 or 4 people. As wonderful as friends and supporters are, getting the lowdown from someone who isn’t personally invested can be a huge help.
3) Take some time off the project and work on something else. I think distance can really help with major revisions. Once you’re not as emotionally attached to what you’ve written, it’s easier to see the flaws.
4) Don’t give up. It’s so tempting to scrap an entire novel as worthless when the revisions are daunting, but don’t forget to see the good stuff too.
Do you have revision strategies? What are the things you do to get through the tough moments in life—yoga, meditation, heavy drinking? A random commenter will receive an ebook copy of their choice of either Inner Sanctum or Double Indemnity!
The car was on fire. Bitter smoke made each inhale painful, filling his lungs with caustic burning rubber, metal, and gas. Sam blinked and tried to orient himself, but he was upside down, strapped to the backseat, while all around him a wall of fire blocked any chance of escape. It was so hot, he felt like he was trapped in a vise. The air squeezed around him like a living, malignant force.
A man groaned from the front seat.
“Dad?” Sam called as recognition hit him. “Dad!”
His father’s silver-black hair seemed to dance in the hot, smoky air. Sam reached for the seatbelt buckle keeping him trapped, but the lever was jammed. He cursed. The windows were broken, but it was impossible to climb out. “Tim? Mom,” Sam screamed. He blinked and tried to see with his burning eyes, but his mother and Tim were gone. Outside, a circle of onlookers stood around two lifeless bodies, making no move to help. His father groaned again. His head pressed awkwardly against the steering wheel. A trickle of blood dripped from his mouth, bright red even through the wall of smoke.
Sam shuddered, heart thudding hard as he lurched awake, back in his apartment. He gulped huge breaths of air, but something was around his neck, and he couldn’t move. Only then did he realize Nathan was holding him. Sam settled back against the familiar, comforting weight as his breathing slowed and the remnants of the nightmare began to dissipate, leaving space for sleep to claim him once again. He could still taste smoke at the back of his throat.
But he wasn’t dreaming anymore.
Six months into a relationship, things have heated up between political blogger Sam Flynn and FBI special agent Nathan Walker. Though Sam is happy with Nathan and proud of his own sobriety, he’s anxious about what their future holds. Things are also heating up in Stonebridge, Connecticut, as a series of deadly fires puts the community on edge and eventually threatens Sam’s comatose brother. As Halloween approaches, fears rise that the arsonist will strike again.
When Sam encounters the main suspect, seventeen-year-old orphan Damon Blake, Sam’s not sure what to do. He knows obstruction might land him in jail, but he finds himself increasingly skeptical of Damon’s guilt. He takes matters into his own hands and investigates, but doing so means keeping Damon’s whereabouts a secret from Nathan and the police. Meanwhile, Nathan wonders what Sam is hiding and grapples with insecurities of his own. Sam wants to confide in Nathan, and Nathan wants to trust Sam, but they discover negotiating new love can be as dangerous as solving crime.
Maggie Kavanagh writes gay romances that explore flawed, human characters finding love. She went to graduate school for English literature and reads and writes voraciously, whenever she can get a moment alone. You can find her in the wee morning hours typing away with coffee at hand and cat in lap, happily embodying the romance writer cliché.
While she focuses mainly on contemporary romance, don’t be surprised if a historical or supernatural tale slips into the mix, as she’s always eager to discover different genres. More fiction is forthcoming soon, so stay tuned!
Maggie has brought the winner’s choice of a copy of either Double Indemnity or Inner Sanctum to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Monday, September 28th at 11:59 pm EST.
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