This is what three weeks of revising and editing get you. A laundry basket full of shreds. I have another three hundred pages—a draft’s worth—to add, but the shredder cried “Uncle!” and I was forced into a time-out.
Three weeks ago—after taking a day to celebrate writing the final scene of The Novel and to buy a new shredder—I put together a revision plan. Then I printed off a fresh copy of The Novel, clicked my red pen and started reading. Three revisions later, I come back to The Plan to see how I’m doing.
Holy Shit, this is a lot of work.
Here’s the thing. At the end of October, I wrote this here blog post Pitchin’ and Moanin. Filled with determination, I set out not only to finish my first full draft by the end of the year, but to have it in good enough shape that I could hit the “Send” button with manuscripts attached, confident I was sending something I could be proud of.
I made and didn’t make my goal. The agent received the first 100 pages and a synopsis last week, in the final hours of 2013. I was saved from the hell of the standard query letter by the grace of my pitch. She asked that I simply cut and paste the content of my pitch as my query; she’d remember the rest. Ditto the publisher. Query hell postponed by two.
Two days later, the novel critique group I recently joined provided feedback for Chapters 1 and 2. Incredibly helpful, just, funny, awesome feedback that made me wish I hadn’t hit “Send” quite so soon. But let’s be honest: though the changes are significant on the small scale of two chapters, they aren’t anything that would cause an on-the-fence-agent to say “Oh, now THAT makes me want to represent you!”
My patient, tireless and outrageously supportive spouse is providing much-needed line edits—ferreting out typos that my eyes no longer register—and getting as excited about “what happens next” in the story as I am for him to discover it.
I’m on track to deliver the full manuscript to the publisher by the end of the week (keep in mind, this is an arbitrary deadline, set by me. No one is actually waiting to read The Novel). I took another hard look at the publisher’s submission guidelines over the weekend and fully registered this bullet point: DETAILED synopsis. My tight four-pager ain’t gonna cut it. Thank Pete for Scrivener—the heavy lifting of a chapter outline is done, I just need to make it pretty and comprehensible. And this week, it’s one more read through before I hit “Send” and put this baby to bed for a few weeks.
The Revision Plan? I haven’t followed it to the letter, but it’s what I’ve been doing every day—no holidays, no weekends—for three weeks. And in a few weeks’ time, I’ll take it out and start all over again. When I’ve recovered from killing six thousand of my darlings.
“I’ve found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that somebody else wrote it and then to rip the living shit out of it.”
― Don Roff
MACRO: Story Arc, Character Development
- Conflict Arc: Identify Inciting Incident, Conflict within the GAP, Moments of Increased Risk, Mid-Point, Black Moment, Point of No Return, Crisis, Climax.
- Within the Crisis & the Climax: Identify Dilemma, Static Moment, Insight Moment, Choice, Reversal
- Character Arc: edit just one character at a time. Follow him/her in each scene he/she appears. Check micro-details and macro-development & POV issues (consistency within scenes)
- Scene Endings does each scene end with a resonant line or image and/or is there a call to action? Will it make the reader late for work or keep them up past their bedtime?
- Internal (emotional struggle) & External (plot) Conflicts: Are they present on every page? Identify scene by scene.
- Setting: does every scene have one?
- Dialogue: does each conversation do at least two of these: create setting; develop character; create tension; foreshadow; escalate conflict; move internal conflict; move plot; give information.
- FLOW & RHYTHM: variation of sentence length
- DOES THE STORY BEGIN AT THE TRUE BEGINNING & END AT THE TRUE ENDING?
MICRO: Grammar ~ Punctuation ~ Spelling
- SEARCH & REPLACE:
*TO BE verbs. Replace with active verbs. *-ING verbs *Change meaningless action words: look, smile, nod, frown, wink, laugh-all opportunities for an action that can develop character *"TURN” “REACH” Eliminate and just DO THE ACTION *“KNEW/KNOW” *Eliminate “weed” words: that, still, just, very, so *“FELT” Replace with emotion or action *ADVERBS Replace with active, transitive verbs *ADJECTIVE Replace with lean (specific) nouns *Check semicolons, exclamation points, ellipses
- Find Beta Readers. Steel Yourself for Heartbreak.
- WALK AWAY. WALK AWAY. WALK AWAY. Find something new to dream about. Write short stories. Read phenomenal books. Plan Novel Two.
Recognition for my Revision Plan to Wendy Call, Chuckanut Writer’s Conference 2012; Ann Hood, Port Townsend Writer’s Conference 2013; Anna DiStefano and Sabrina York, Emerald City Writer’s Conference 2013