Oh blog, how I have neglected you! Forgive me for this long absence. I attribute my inability to post to the brain drain associated with the novel revision process. Revision. It is like a vortex sucking away my time, energy and motivation. I know there are people who become energized by this process, who revel in the sentence by sentence deconstruction and polish. “What is this character’s motivation?” is a question that makes some writer’s hearts swell with joy. But not me. To me, the whole process is a struggle. A slog. A grueling thing called work. Where I have to stare at my work head on and figure out a way to make it not suck.
Please, book, can you not suck?
The good news? My novel is in the hands of critical readers now and I have a few weeks to forget it even exists. The bad news? It will be returned to me, needing even more revision. That is the point, after all, of using beta readers.
I wish there was some magic that could be used to make revision less daunting. I admire those, like Holly Lisle, who can use the One-Pass Manuscript Revision process. For me, the process takes more repetition.
Here is what I’ve learned about revision with my novel-in-progress (or how I managed to have a readable draft in six months instead of two years like I did with my first novel):
The first pass of my revision included just reading the text, cleaning up obvious errors (grammar, punctuation, etc.). After a month long break, the rest time I took between completing the first draft and starting revision, this read was to get reacquainted with the text and make a list of notes I could use to start major changes.
Then, I did the following with my next draft:
1. Make a master outline. I write by the seat-of-my-pants method, but an outline is one of the BEST tools to navigate revisions. Mine includes the chapter number/title, the word count, number of pages and a section for notes.
2. Drill down. For each chapter in my novel I wrote out a brief summary, the conflict, listed all the characters, and the overarching theme (if any).
3. Break the novel into parts. We all know about the story arc, the standard building blocks of both small and large projects. Breaking the novel into three distinct parts helped give me a global view of the work.
Each draft worked with these tools to refine the structure of the story. My last pass was focused on a sentence level analysis: omitting needless words, trying to get rid of crutch words and other problems with my prose. Admittedly, I need more of this work done in my manuscript. I didn’t want to polish each and every sentence to a sparkling shine without more input from readers. There is something really unfortunate about polishing things that wind up needing to be cut, rearranged, etc. So, I’m saving that final push until the very end. I will read the novel aloud and find the places that need more work.