Saturday, August 2, 2014

Revision: It's not a dirty word!

Revision. I used to think that was a four-letter word disguised as an eight-letter word. When you’ve bled 60,000 words or more and have finally saved that first draft for the last time, you don’t really want to think about the fact that it’s the FIRST draft and you’ve got a long road ahead of you, rewriting the blasted thing. But if you’re serious about writing, you know that’s exactly what you have to do.

I finished the first draft of my new novel about a month ago. I’m pretty happy with it, but I know it needs work. I know there are weak spots that need attention, but I decided to read Write and Revise for Publication by Jack Smith first. It’s been very helpful, and I highly recommend it.

I’m just about ready to dive back into my draft and start ripping it up (because I know that’s what it needs in certain places), and I feel like Smith’s book gave me a good direction to get started. I’m going to start with my characters.

My book is paranormal with a bit of a time travel built in. There are parallel story lines, one taking place a little more than 100 years before the other, and they converge. There are important characters in each story line, and they interact. I need to work on them to ensure they’re as deeply developed as they should be and that they’re behaving in ways that are believable. (There’s been a niggling little doubt in the back of my mind since I reached the halfway point in the book that a couple characters might not be behaving quite the way they really should. I have to spend time on that.)

I also have to take a look at them and decide who my protagonist really is. It’s funny—now that the first draft is finished, I think the protagonist is actually a different character than the one I thought it was in the beginning. That’s cool, but it also means more revision to emphasize and expand on that. (Remember, the protagonist is the one who really drives the story, not necessarily the one you would consider the “hero.”)

As I wrote the first draft, I paid little attention to theme, and it’s an element that I doubt I would have thought much about had I not read Smith’s book. I don’t think this particular novel needs to hit people over the head with any overarching theme, but when I stopped to think about it, there are a couple themes that do come out in it. So why not pay attention to them as well and make the story richer for it?

When it comes to attacking my scene development, I’ve decided to try a hands-on, very visual method, and I’m really looking forward to this. I’m going to “blow up” each scene in the book using poster board and sticky notes. (I’m cobbling together ideas I’ve read from other writers, so credit to those who have shared on their blogs and such, even if I can’t remember where I got the ideas now.) Every scene should advance the plot or help develop the characters, so I figure if I section off my poster board for individual scenes and use the sticky notes to outline the characters’ actions within the scenes, I’m going to have a very good tool to evaluate what’s going on in my scenes and what needs to be changed.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what I’m going to do and how I’m going to do it. But for the first time, I’m looking forward to revision. I know my book needs work, and I’m willing and eager to do that work. I think I’m going to enjoy revising. Who would have thought?