Revision – Revised

When we did revision week here on the League a while back, I wrote about the stages of grief…I mean revision. Recently I also did a post for Darcy Pattison’s Fiction Notes about how revision made (and sold) Memento Nora. I guess I didn’t the topic quite out of my system. (Probably because I’m just finishing up a major, brain-sucking revision on the Forgetting Curve.) 

So, this time I thought I’d share the things that keep me relatively sane while revising (besides coffee and chocolate croissants):

  1. Tackle one thing at a time. In other words, make one pass through to deal with voice, the next one to deal with story logic, chapter endings, and so forth. For me, this makes it seem do able.  Small victories. However, you can note other things you notice along the way. Color coded post-its work wonders.
  2. Smear on exposition (thinly) to advance the outer story.  As may be evident from Memento Nora, I’m not a big fan of the info dump.  (Call it a pet peeve even.) Gradually clue in your readers, with a hint of description here, a well chosen word of dialogue there. Your reader will get it.
  3. Untangle time and plot lines. I lay out what happens when and where on a calendar.  Sometimes you discover, especially with multiple points of view, that you have somebody in two places at one time, for instance.
  4. Heighten tension toward the end by adding or accentuating a plot or character complication.  This could be twist or betrayal or revelation that makes your story more satisfying. Of course, you’ll have to go back through and make sure this twist is adequately setup or foreshadowed (without giving it away).

What are some of the things that you look for when you revise? What keeps you sane (revision-wise)?


Catherine Stine said...

I'm about to get my 350 page novel back from a freelance editor with what I'm sure will be lots of comments, so reading this is helpful, and reminding me not to freak, but to take it all in stride.

Perry Wilson said...

I think this works well. At least multi passes works for me. I find sometimes that I until I have done the first few passes, I can't see the problems.


Efi Loo Publishing said...

Very sound advice. I too break my revision/re-writing into sections. I find it allows me to focus on one important task at a time, however, I do make notes of anything pertinent I find along the way that needs tweaking.
I create an outline for my novels so when I do get to the wonderful task of revision it makes it easier to follow a time line. I use a calendar for time plotting and I also create maps of my fictional towns so when moving about it helps to create a visual image for my readers.

Good post!

Anonymous said...

Good post. I agree; I call my first draft the "skeleton", and each revision adds flesh to the bones; I add in details on surroundings on one pass, replace the "placeholder actions" like sighing and blinking on another pass, check for internal consistency on my fictional grammar on another....I tend to joke that my MSS go through 53 revisions, but that's not actually too far off, once it gets to the printed-bound-book stage....:)