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Old Sep 12 2011, 04:38 PM   #13
D. M. Domini
D. M. Domini's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Chicagoland
Gender: F
Fan of: Afra Lyon, and Robinton!
Now Reading: Sabriel by Garth Nix
Default Re: Novel Revision/Editing

I don't know how you work, but I find the "real" part of writing kicks in after the first draft for me. I do the "grow a wild crazy garden then prune, prune, prune" method.

Have you ever watched a youtube video of a visual artist drawing? Yeah, the first draft is like the visual artist's sketch with wide blotches of color going on and splashing over the unfathomably pink or teal squiggle-lines. The drafts after it is like when the artist goes in and erases that crazy leg that's sticking out in some anatomically impossible position and changes the eyes on the hero so they don't look like he's hopped up on crack or something. If you drop down to the Talent forum and look at the Damia coverart thread, you'll see an example of this process...the coverart artist did two roughs, then combined the best elements of those into the final, and did a lot of fine detail work to clean things up. Writing is just like that, except it's your head. It's more abstract.

So. Go through your draft, and try to see where you maybe had some cool foreshadowing or plot point that you didn't actually use. Then cut it out. Then maybe find a cool idea that came into the story late, and work it back into the story earlier (if appropriate) so you look like a genius that thought up all these complex inter-connections and hints beforehand. Readers will never know you did it in two or three passes, but you'll look awesome when they read the final product for the first time. And take a step back and look at the overall themes of your book--are you saying what you think you're saying? Maybe you had a character you intended to be badass, but she just comes off as a bitch. (A lot of urban fantasy authors could do with this type of editing--make the character truly strong instead of fake bluster-strong. ) Now is the time to find this sort of thing and start tweaking her scenes so that your intent is more in line with what you actually produced. Sometimes it's just looking at your word choices in dialogue. Sometimes it's excising or re-writing entire scenes, because making your character act differently to be more in line with how you imagined her will have ripple effects across the story and how more minor characters will "naturally" react. So if you do something like that, you need to really do a good read-over so that your internal consistency remains intact chapters and scenes down the line. I find all sorts of left-overs I need to catch when I do these sorts of edits. So you do the big edit first, then you do a clean-up over however many more scenes and lines as it takes.

I've been heavily revising a 50k word fanfic recently, and in that process I've yanked probably five major scenes, inserted nearly as many, and rewrote an existing scene from the POV of a different character. The scene-yanking was mostly done due to my feeling of "this scene is boring and contributes nothing". Or sometimes "I love this scene but it doesn't belong in this story." Some of these scenes I liked a lot, and even got positive feedback on, and they may re-appear as shorter stories. (In my Pern fic, I had a scene exploring why Morshall hated Menolly so much, but it really had little to do with the fanfic as a whole.) Anything that doesn't serve the story gets chopped.

The scene inserting I did was to prepare the road for later chapters, once I start adding completely new material again. I used them to mainly make some character states more clear, so I am able to better lead those characters along their story arcs. If the reader is never told Character A is upset in Scene A, when you later make a big deal of it in Scene Q the reader will be lost. (In my case, I often don't realize the character will make a big deal of it until I write Scene Q, which is why I later have to go back and make sure this lines up with the character's earlier states when I do revisions.)

And the scene I changed from one POV to another was to diffuse a scene-stealing character. (Iin this case Robinton was doing what he does best...stealing the entire freaking story. So I gave his scene to Lessa and wrote Robinton out of it entirely because he honestly wasn't needed in that scene. The Weyrleaders were perfectly able to do it without consulting Robinton before they tied their shoelaces. Alas.)

Another thing you might want to do is close plot-holes and research-holes as you find them. Stop and question if your character is missing something (and thus you missed something) about a situation. Characters being willfully stupid can frustrate a reader to no end. Make sure you balance mystery with what a reasonably horse-smart character would know in his or her world.

I did some early research for my story that gave me incorrect facts about how close Pern was to Deneb and Altair. Upon revision, I had to edit all references to those wrong facts out. I had about 3 places I referenced them, but the references were so slight I really had to pay attention to catch them all. Like, they were so slight as in I touched on them in maybe 2 lines of dialogue and 1 of narration, all spread out over thousands of words. So a lot of my revision was merely reading along after I'd done a few handful of edits, bringing later things in the timeline up-to-date with what I fixed earlier.

Another error that can pop up after the first draft is done is the...written/read lag. It takes me hours to squeeze out a few thousand words that readers consume in seconds. This can lead to situations where you start repeating yourself as a writer, because for YOU the last time you "read" the prior scene was hours and hours ago, and what you said is no longer fresh in your mind as you write the next pats. So you repeat it. Just in case. Because it's easy to assume it's not fresh for the reader either. But that's not necessarily true...even a slow reader will still have what you wrote earlier in the story "fresher" in their mind. If you are tripping up like this as a writer, you (or your readers) can see something of a...boring repetition, or even if you manage not to do that, a chapter jitter when reading the story at a later date. Where a scene you wrote days before has a certain...tone, or chain of thought, or something that doesn't match up with the scene after it, because you wrote them at completely different times. You might need to gently comb through both of them, to bring the "tone" and "feel" in line with one another. That's a part of revisions.

I think this covers most of what I have done with revisions. Hope it helps?

Edit: Oh, and I reference fanfic in this post when I speak of revision. But I write original fic too. I've found these revision techniques apply to both types of writing. With my original fic, I find I tend to cut even MORE scenes than my fanfic. I have stuff in my Dragon King's Wife story that's been re-written at least 10 times. I also have stuff that's only been line-tweaked because it came out near-perfect.
Read my Pern and Talent fanfic on Archive of our Own.

Fanfic WIPs: The Day Benden Went to War (Pern/Talent); Slosh (Pern); Weyrbred Lads (Pern); When You Fall Asleep /Between/... (Pern)

Completed Fics: Flight (Pern), Flight v2 (Pern), Golden Glow (Pern)

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