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Thursday, July 16, 2009

SRS Lash Flash: Sarah Beth Durst!

Summer Revision Smackdown Lash Flash is not dead, ladies and gents! It has been brought back from its hiaitus by a most charming and fascinating author, Sarah Beth Durst!

Sarah Beth is the author of the popular YA fantasy duo, INTO THE WILD and OUT OF THE WILD, and whose third book, ICE (a retelling of East of the Sun and West of the Moon!) will release this October. I was lucky enough to meet Sarah Beth in NYC a couple of years ago just before her first book came out, and I've been cheering for her ever since. Check out her website, blog, and follow her on Twitter.

I asked Sarah Beth for her best revision tip, and here's what she had to say:

I hate first drafts. First drafts are ugly. The reality of them can never match up to that beautiful shining ideal Perfect Book that hovers over the outline. So I like to power through them as quickly as humanly possible. My rule wisth first drafts is: don't look back, don't erase, and don't stop. Just keep going.

Once I have the first draft, then I can start on my favorite part of the writing process: revision. I spend the vast majority of my time revising, and I do (approximately) 3,457 drafts. Okay, maybe not quite that many, but I do a lot. I use the first draft as a glorified outline. It's my skeleton. From there, I start adding layers. In each subsequent draft, I address a different aspect of the story. For instance, one pass through, I might work on how back-story is revealed. Another pass, I might work on the characters' emotions. Another, I might focus on description.

I know this approach isn't for everyone, but I really like it because it breaks down the process into manageable chunks. It can be intimidating to sit down at your desk and say, "Now I will revise my novel." It’s much easier to sit down and say, "Now I will fix the pacing."

I also like the way this approach lets you view the novel as a whole as you work on it. It's like working on a mural by taking frequent steps back and then swooping in to tweak various areas, rather than working inch by inch. You get a global view as you bring the novel to life, step by step. And that's really what the joy of revision is: bringing the story to life, step by step, sentence by sentence, word by word.

Thank you, Sarah Beth! (And I can't wait for ICE!)


  1. Haven't heard anyone describe novel revision like this. I love the mural metaphor. Makes sense to "revise" drawings/artwork this way, so why not a whole book. Thanks for the great post!

  2. Great post, yeah! i paint murals (among others things) so i think i can really get behind this technique. i've been kind of overwhelmed with getting the first draft "just right", this would gie me freedom to get it done. :) thanks!!!

  3. Sarah Beth's method offers the kind of freedom that may help release my story from the chains inside my head. Thanks for sharing.

  4. This makes me feel so much better about my first draft. Thank you!

  5. I agree with Martha!

    It does seem less overwhelming to focus on one thing each time through.

  6. Great advice! Thank you! I feel better now about first drafting, haha.

  7. I'm a little late with my comment, but I thought this was WONDERFUL. Thank you!