Friday, March 19, 2010

Revision Reschmision II

Revision Reschmision II

shooting-star-wallpapers_9475_1600x1200 As some of you know, I’ve been working through an online revision course for Steam Palace. The first half of the course was a detailed examination of my  draft, including analyzing scenes, plots, characters, settings, and consistency. It hasn’t really touched structure and style. But now I find myself at an impasse. I have a vision of what the book should be, and I want to start writing it. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been rewriting certain scenes, trying to gain a feel for what the new version will be like.

The course is wanting me to build scene cards, mark keep/change areas, blah blah blah, but my plan is to completely rewrite everything., Every single line. The reason is simple. Although I had an outline for my first draft, when I sat down to write it, all I wanted to do is to get my idea for the book down on paper. I rushed through the draft, not worrying about anything. The result is a mix of good and bad (mostly bad), but rewriting is far more effective that revising.

Revision is different from drafting. In this revision, every line, every word counts. When I was drafting, I could crank out 5000 words a day. With revision it’s closer to 500, and I’m writing copious notes to make sure I don’t drop threads. But that’s not the main difference. I know where the story’s going. I know what the character relationships are. I’ve thrown out 3 characters and replaced them with far more interesting people. I’ve ripped out the middle and replaced it with something deeper. I’ve taken my setting and cranked it up a couple notches, raising the stakes up to where a true Sci-Fi story should be.

Here’s the thing. In my heart, I’m a pantser. I’m not a plotter or an outliner. I can’t sit around for the next 2 months plotting out cards for every possible scene. Yes, organization helps me. Having an outline made drafting immeasurably easier. But organization is not my strength. I’m a problem solver, and I’m creative thinker. I can’t plan everything out to the Nth detail.

At a critique meeting the other day, a newbie was incredulous that I could imagine a world with imaginary characters. I explained that it’s a simple process. What you’re looking at right now is a bunch of dots on a screen, but your brain sees it as something else. Imagination is the same. I see a setting, some characters, and some issues, then my brain interprets that as a story. You “imagine” stuff all the time, you just don’t know it.

This is why I’m kind of giving up on the course. I don’t want to draw dots. I know I haven’t figured out every problem that I have in the story, but my imagination is begging that I start crafting full scenes, not just one-line summaries which don’t really tell me what happens in a scene. My brain has connected all the notes I’ve made, and is ready to tell the story as it should be.

This week I created a new prologue for my story…just for fun (please no anti-prologue lectures). I may or may not include it in the final revision, but something I read in the coursework really made me think, and I’ll paraphrase here:

Do not write any scenes or include any characters that you are not dying to write.

That really struck a chord with me. I knew during drafting that there were a bunch of scenes that I “got through” because they “needed” to be in there. Then when it came time to print out a chapter for my critique group, I sometimes skipped the boring scenes. After learning this, I realized that

  1. If it’s not fun for me, it’s not fun for the reader.
  2. Some of my characters are just plain boring and don’t add to the story.
  3. I will only include stuff that I am determined to share with the world because it’s so awesome.

Note that this does not apply to first draft. You’ll drive yourself crazy trying to make every scene perfect and you’ll never finish. In your first draft, include every piece of crap that comes to mind. But during revision, everything counts.

And now, without further ado, here is a snippet of my new prologue, a highlighted bit that appears above the chapter header.

One sister will marry, one sister will die;
The day that Belonia drops from the sky.

“Belonia” is a strange star that’s been in the sky for 450 years. It travels across the sky backwards, counter to the Sun and Moon. There used to be four of them, but now there’s only the one. A crazy old witch lady issued this prophecy. I’m not sure it fits the story, and the name sounds a little like “Bologna” (I used an online name generator), but I had a lot of fun writing it. And maybe that’s the secret.

Do you make sure everything in your novel is included for a reason…and that the reason isn’t “it has to be in there”?


  1. Well, Andrew arent' you the busy little bee. Good for you.

    Okay here goes my two cents. I've just almost done the same thing you did, rewrote instead of revised, the difference was, I did do it with an outline. The panster thing just wasn't cutting it as was the genre, before it was strictly a contemporary romance, now it's women's fiction. I like the feel of literary for this, it's working.

    Anyhoo, I know you don't want to outline, (and as for newbie pants not knowing you can keep a whole world in your head, yeah, well, he's still a newbie,he'll get it eventually) but I've done it this time but not a full one, I basically just plotted out the story, the main plots, subs and a few flashbacks. It seems to keep me on track and because it's written down, I'm finding I'm not losing my little threads.

    I'm also writing in scenes and not word counts anymore. I used to try and get 2000 per day but it's not working. Now if I get the whole scene out, I'm golden. Which in a round-a-bout way sort of answers your question...everything that is in my novel is there for the reason that if it wasn't the novel would fall apart.

    Sorry that I ramble, I'm from RI originally and I'm just one of those people who can't shut up.

  2. @pw: Let me clarify a bit. I do have an extensive outline, plus dozens of pages of notes. The point is that I'm tired of revising the outline and creating notes and the process is not giving me what I need. I feel like I'm ready to write.

  3. Well, then, WRITE WRITE WRITE until your fingers bleed. You know what's best for you.

    And because I talk so much, I obviously have a problem with comprehension.

  4. I'm taking the same course. And I had very much the same reaction as you...I got through a lot of triage (though I ignored most of the worksheets), and was ready to write. I knew I was ready to write. I started rewriting scenes (thankfully, I have a lot left I can incorporate from the first draft). My brain works fast that way too - I don't need all the steps between once I figure out how something works.

    Then I started doing the revised scene outline, and while I won't be doing the notecards (because I'm just not "that person", I've decided), the revised outline is making me grateful that I haven't rewritten more already. And now I'll continue rewriting, but I'm still going to continue taking the course and using any lesson material that seems to fit as I go.

    I guess what I'm saying is, you may not want to "completely" give up on the course just yet - I think there's still a ton of information to be gleaned from it, even if you're rebellious like me and just picking and choosing what to use. :-)

    Good luck - and many words to you!

  5. @Jamie Well definitely I'm still going to go over the coursework. There's a lot of good stuff in there. But I already know what's staying and what's going, i don't need to keep thinking about it...I won't know for sure that the changes work until I WRITE them in. And the cards are just like...whatevs. Too much damn work for not enough payoff.

  6. Revision is a pain for me. Lol, understatement of the century, but i don't really like thinking about while working on the first draft. I like to think that what I'm writing is close to what's going to be printed (one day lol), with the exception of typical polish stuff and minor line edits, and all that. I'm not sure if i made sense or not, so I'll shut up now. lol.


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