Adventures in revising

Sorry for the somewhat protracted radio silence this week…revising my novel has taken over my life and I’ve been neglecting pretty much everything else.  Carrying out revisions, however, has raised some potentially blog-worthy questions for me about process. 

When I first started writing a few years ago, my revision process was very simple: try to figure out what was wrong  and fix it.  Since then I’ve learned a lot and, as a result, have started breaking the revision process down into much more specific components and steps. 

For one thing, I can now take my writing apart more effectively and analyze it through different lenses.  Are there problems with the structure, plot, and pacing?  Do the characterizations need more subtle shading or greater development?  Is the writing flabby?  Is the POV too distant?  Is the world-building vivid and deep enough?

Pulling out these individual strands has led me to revise in several passes.  For instance, the plan for final revisions to my novel “A Blood Red Sun” include the following passes over the manuscript:

1. Plot level changes

2. Shading and development of characters, especially the protagonist and secondary POV character

3. World-building (particularly with respect to improving sensory aspects – sound, taste, touch, feel)

4. Editing following the method in the 10% Solution (this includes a reading aloud pass and a printed pass)

At least…that’s the plan.  I’m midway through the first pass and I’m already finding it really hard separate elements.   In fact, it’s gotten to the point where pass #1 and pass #2 are merging.

I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not.  On the one hand, combining the two doesn’t seem to be hurting my focus, but it is taking longer and reducing the number of times I’ll go through the manuscript before declaring it done.  Do I need to force myself to be more regimented?  I don’t know.

Another benefit emerging from this project is greater awareness of my chronic weaknesses.  One thing I’m realizing I do A LOT is flounder around with spatial cues.  Characters are always crossing the room, looking at each other, “fixing their gazes” (ugh), and so on.  In a few rare instances, such cues are necessary for clarity, but usually they’re just useless filler.  I look forward to zapping them with my editing ray of death in pass #4. 

Distancing the POV is another trap I fall into when drafting.  Characters watch other characters experience things rather than letting the reader have direct access.  Instead of letting “the sun warm her face” the character will “feel the sun on her face.”  And then there’s the dreaded “was” replacing active verbs with its passive life-sucking force.  Again, my ray gun is at the ready.

One of the things I love about writing is how much of a learning process it is.  Sitting down to complete one task (revising a novel) allows you to simultaneously experience greater self-awareness and growth as a writer in general, which will benefit your next writing project.  I have no doubt I’ll look back on my first year of blogging and smile indulgently at how naive I seem to my now more-experienced self.  Not only do I have no doubt, I look forward to it.

In the meantime, though, it’s back to revisions for me.  Please share your processes and suggestions for revision in the comments…I could use the help!

4 thoughts on “Adventures in revising

  1. Kristin

    I found your breakdown of revisions helpful. Today I am revising the story that I plan to submit to the Writers of the Future contest in April. Although I have written quite a few short stories I have always done them for class assignments or for myself. The purpose on this one from the outset is different. Thank you for a view into your revising process.

  2. Robyn

    On the back of my VP story, Karl Schroeder drew a circle with “Plot -> Pacing -> Character/Dialog -> Style” going around it. I have been trying to do a draft for each, and then stop, because otherwise I just do draft after draft after draft, and never call anything done. For me it’s important to find a stopping point. So I do all that, and then I let people read it, and then do it (all four passes) again… and then send it out.

    In theory.

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