Revisions – Part 2: Taking The Novel Apart

RevisionsThis is part two of my journey through revisions. If you missed part one, find it here.

In this article, we will dig more into those first edits affectionately referred to as rewrites. It’s taking the story apart and evaluating each part.  Anna DeStefano discusses this in detail in her blog How We Write.

I have to say I love her technique.  It allows me to take the 400+ pages I’ve written and break it up into smaller chunks.  Easier to manage right?  To manage yes, but to do for me is still a challenge.

You are going to need a lot of post it flags in various colors, an assortment of highlighters, and a printout of your novel.

Note: writing programs such as Scrivener and Write Way Pro do allow you to highlight and compile sections of the manuscript to replace this.  I tried this with Scrivener and I just don’t revise as well as I do when I’m looking at the printed page.  I have a feeling it works better if you mark scenes as you write. I didn’t figure that out until after the draft was done. I’ll definitely be trying it with the next draft.

You can tackle this in various ways; you just need a plan and time.  I found that it is taking longer to revise than it did to draft. I can draft quickly. I agonize over revisions.  Here was my plan:Edit - word in letterpress type

  • Character Arc: tag each scene in the heroine’s POV with one color tag and the hero in another.  If you have a villain, do that one too. Important secondary characters? Yep, them too.   What I learned? I found that the number of scenes between the h/h were pretty even. When I read only the heroine’s scenes, I found that she was developing as I had planned. The hero? Not so much. I had to go insert some back story for him to make sure I had the right motivation for the choices he made later in the book.
  • Chapter balance: I marked the beginning of each chapter.  I could visually see where I needed to beef things up. The middle scenes needed more work. They were on the thin side. I could then check the beginning of each chapter and the end for hooks. I found I put too much backstory in the beginning of chapters. I cleaned it out.
  • Checking against the outline. I’m a plotter. I use the three act/eight sequence framework for this novel.  Now I can go back and mark each scene and make sure I hit the mark with the various ups and downs of the plot.

You can continue to deconstruct your book (or any book) piece by piece until you are happy with it or for as long as you have time. If time is limited, hit the areas where you think you are weakest.

iheartrevisionsMy next step in the revision process is reading for deep POV. This is my weakest area. In fact I’m in the middle of this one now. I read the story from the beginning and get rid of as many places where I’m showing more than telling as I can.  For me this is so tedious but honestly, the story needs it.  Some people just get the hang of internal dialogue and deep POV, not me.

By the way, here’s a hint for you: when they tell you to show not tell, they are really talking about deep POV. We want to feel what the characters feel.  Took me years to learn this.  Chick here for more about Deep POV.

Because I’m a plotter, not a panster, I don’t always know the characters as well as I want when I draft.  Going back and adding the depth is crucial for me.  Let’s hope editors think so too. 🙂

Tackling your manuscript a bite at a time is much less intimidating than starting at the page 1 with a highlighter. It also gives you the ability to make your story the best it can be.

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