Thursday, 1 October 2015

Anatomy of a Book’s Creation and Revision Process - Guest Post by Iris Dorbian


Anatomy of a Book’s Creation and Revision Process

by Iris Dorbian

Two questions that frequently comes up when I discuss my book, “Love, Loss and Longing in the Age of Reagan: Diary of a Mad Club Girl” are:

When did you write it?

How many revisions did you make?

The answer to the first question is: I wrote the first draft in 2005. I had just purchased my first laptop computer (an Acer!) and wanted to baptize this acquisition with this idea of a project that had been gestating in my head for some time. The project was a coming of age story set in downtown New York City in the early 1980s. I wanted to use my wild and wooly experiences as an NYU undergrad during that same time period as inspiration, which I did.

From what I recall, it took me about six months to start and complete the first draft.

The answer to the second question is that my book has undergone four revisions.

The first draft was very raw and unfiltered. I distinctly remember an exchange between an agent acquaintance and me that followed her review of the first 75 pages:

“I have good news and bad news,” she told me.

I sighed. “What’s the bad news?”

“Unfortunately, I don’t like any of your characters. None of them, including Edie, are sympathetic.”

Great, I thought. “What’s the good news?”

“You’re a writer!” she said.

Back to the computer for revisions. Soon I got waylaid by an actual book project—“Great Producers: Visionaries of the American Theater,” which I had been commissioned to write for Allworth Press. Shortly after this book came out, I went back to the other manuscript, the one lying dormant on my hard drive and did another revision. I decided for this draft I would smooth over the characters’ rough edges and make them more disaffected and confused rather than downright unlikable—Iris Dorbian meets JD Salinger. It didn’t quite work. Much of the original momentum and urgency was lost.

For draft three, I merged the best of the first and second drafts. But I wasn’t satisfied with it so I held onto it.

Shortly after I worked on the third version, I was hit with a number of personal and professional setbacks that caused me to shelve this project indefinitely.

Last year I came back to the manuscript after a young acquaintance of mine asked me if I had ever written anything about New York City in the early 1980s, because if I did, she would read it, she told me.

I told her, “As a matter of fact, I have. It’s a full-length novel loosely based on my experiences as an NYU student from that period.”

After she made this remark to me, I saw I had a break in my work schedule. I decided to use that interval to work on the manuscript and whip it into something resembling a polished and publishable piece of work. To accomplish this, I looked at the work with clear and objective eyes. Because I hadn’t read it for a while, that was surprisingly pretty easy to do.

I liked the energy and buoyance that imbued the narrative but there were too many characters that were superfluous. And there were a few chapters that did not advance Edie’s story one iota. All were excised. As a seasoned editor in my professional life, I had no qualms doing that. Often trimming the fat from a story makes it stronger just like pruning a bush does.

Then I reviewed the manuscript a few more times and this time, was satisfied with the end result—which is the current incarnation of my book.



It's the early 1980s, MTV is in its infancy, the Internet does not exist, Ronald Reagan is president and yuppies are ruling Wall Street. Edie is a naïve NYU student desperate to lose her virginity and to experience adventure that will finally make her worldly, setting her further apart from her bland suburban roots. But in her quest to mold herself into an ideal of urban sophistication, the New Jersey-born co-ed gets more than she bargained for, triggering a chain of events that will have lasting repercussions.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Iris Dorbian is a former actress turned business journalist/blogger. Her articles have appeared in a wide number of outlets that include the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Venture Capital Journal, DMNews,, Playbill, Backstage, Theatermania, Live Design, Media Industry Newsletter and PR News. From 1999 to 2007, Iris was the editor-in-chief of Stage Directions. She is the author of “Great Producers: Visionaries of the American Theater," which was published by Allworth Press in August 2008. Her personal essays have been published in Blue Lyra Review, B O D Y, Embodied Effigies, Jewish Literary Journal, Skirt! Diverse Voices Quarterly and Gothesque Magazine. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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Iris Dorbian will be awarding a $20 Amazon/BN to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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  1. Thank you so much for hosting!! Have a great day.

  2. Sounds like a great read.

  3. Great post - thanks for sharing!

  4. I think it's important to take breaks from one's own manuscript from time to time. Like you say, it allows you to read your words with fresh eyes.