Friday, January 8, 2010

Revision Reschmision

Revision Reschmision

Revision_006-450w I decided to take an online (for a small fee) course on revision for my WIP Steam Palace. I’m not going to mention which one at this time because I want to run through the entire course first before promoting it, although if you’re dying to know, send me an email or follow me on Twitter. The concept of the course is “single-draft revision,” meaning that I take my rough draft directly to a final draft, using a bunch of worksheets and index cards as intermediary steps.

So far, it’s been a challenge. It’s been a lot of work, and I have dozens of pages of handwritten (which for me means nearly-indecipherable) notes. The idea is that I maintain a record of everything I write during this process in case I want to go back…but it seems to be turning into TMI. I’ve now spent 5 weeks doing nothing but reading my draft over and over from different angles and taking copious notes. This week, I’m trying to tease out all the conflict and figure out how to improve it.

Things I’ve learned so far:

  1. It’s more important to get the story right than the style. This was my mistake with my Dawn’s Rise revision attempt. I was so focused on my writing style that I completely ignored the content of the story, so my effort finally fell apart because I couldn’t get the story together. If this process works for Steam Palace, I might try to use it for Dawn’s Rise at some point.
  2. World-building is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can kill your story by introducing tons of backstory and expository writing. On the other hand, it might be the only thing that sets your book apart from others. It’s what makes your novel unique.
  3. Conflict is King. Well, I didn’t really just learn this, but it’s something that’s becoming paramount in the revision process. It’s not just conflict overall in a grand sense, but conflict down to the scene/paragraph level.
  4. Analysis is hard work. And it’s wearing me down. I’m dying to write. I think best when I’m writing, not when I’m thinking about writing. So please, revision course, let me start writing!

I know I’m going to have to cut scenes, and perhaps rewrite large portions of the novel. The problem is, I don’t know what would be better than what I’ve written. I’m assuming the next few weeks of this course will reveal that, but right now, all I see are problems, and not solutions. I know the Climax is weak. I know the Ordeal is weak. I’m now getting worried about the beginning as well. The whole revision process is becoming overwhelming, mostly because I don’t have a clear picture of what the book should be. And without a concrete goal, it’s hard to know what direction to move in.

That’s probably what happens when you focus solely on problems for five weeks straight, you start seeing it as a unsalvageable piece of crap. What was I thinking? No one’s going to buy this. How am I going to turn a 240pg manuscript, 50 pages of notes and 104 index cards into a polished, marketable debut masterpiece? I guess that’s why I’m taking the course. Stay tuned.

(Thanks to InkyGirl for the comic)


  1. I say you take a snow day from calculating and just go play with your characters for a day. You've earned it!

  2. :)
    I think next week I move from plot analysis to character analysis...which I actually think will be more productive since I know they need work.

  3. Ouch!

    If you've been combing your manuscript for five weeks, it hardly seems to clarify as a one shot revision. I would be worn down from so much heavy thinking too!

    You'll have to let us know how this progresses, as I've often considered something like this. Though I actually wanted to do the boot camp thing over a weekend.

    Good luck!

  4. I'm taking the same course - just started, actually. I'm enjoying it so far, despite the amount of work. But I've been finding solutions as well as problems, so that might make a different. I can imagine it would be more difficult without a concrete "image" of what you want it to be in your head.

    Are you working on anything new as you go through this? I have another draft that I'll be starting once I get past the first few time-intensive lessons, and my blog serial that keep me writing new words regularly. I find that helps a lot to keep me focused on the big picture, and not the tearing apart of my draft in revision...

    Good luck! :-)

  5. One of my novels required a lot of revision and I went over and over it making major and minor changes. You remember that phrase, "analysis paralysis"? After constant re-reading and reviewing the story felt so stale that eventually nothing about it satisfied me. I finally abandoned it for a year and moved on to something else.

    Of course I hope this won't be the case for you. I think such courses are wonderful learning experiences but the resulting "information overload" can be discouraging sometimes. Be forewarned. I like Jamie D's comment about working on something new on the side to keep your creativity alive and give you something else to focus on besides revision.

    Good luck with the course. I'll be interested in hearing your evaluation later.


  6. Remember to write down what is good in your story too. It helps when you're staring at your book going "This is terrible. Throw it away completely. Better, burn it!"

    I've spent the entire morning wanting to burn my book, then I go back and reread worksheet 1C, what I want my book to be and realize again I can get there. Focus on the good, take a deep breath, then hack away again.

    Megs - Scattered Bits

  7. Remember nothing is pretty when you're two inches from its face. The novel is going to look horrific when you look that close, and unfortunately we have to look that close. But your readers will be looking from further back - and through different eyes.

    Don't get discouraged. Your blog alone shows you have talent. ;)

    All the best,
    from the desk of a writer

  8. Actually the one-shot revision is apparently something you learn after the course. So I'm not exactly sure what this is...mostly a series of lessons on how to sharpen your inner editor.
    I do think I need to have another WIP to stop from going crazy, but I'm spending all my time on this revision.
    I am starting to get a lot of ideas on how to sharpen the conflict and improve the story...but I worry that I may need to cut huge chunks of the story and I'm analyzing scenes that might not make it.
    It's a pretty good exercise though. I'll keep you all updated.

  9. I think style and story are equally important, but from a purely practical standpoint, you should edit for story before you edit for style. It's just easier that way.

  10. A handmade trackback since I can't figure out how to do it the official way. :) I mentioned this article at my blog in a january in review post. Cheers! - Corra McFeydon


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