Revision (n): the process of removing as many mistakes and weaknesses from your manuscript as possible, often devolving into a futile and maddening attempt to merely mute these flaws to nearly undetectable levels
I’ve decided to take a different approach to the revision process of my second novel. Generally, once I have a working draft, I just keep rereading my own work, fixing whatever errors I discover, until I can make it through the whole thing with a minimal level of wincing. Then I breathe a sigh of relief, proclaim that I am finished, and desperately hope that I didn’t miss something important.
While that haphazard method has kind of worked for me so far (more or less), I figure it’s about time I take a more methodical tack. So, once I’d come up with a coherent draft featuring a completed storyline, I opted to break my rereads and rewrites into specific objectives. Here is the plan of attack:
1. Patch Up Those Plot Holes!
The novel is about time travel. This is not a good thing for writers who have serious qualms about releasing material containing gaping plot holes (which is probably just about all of us). If the plot doesn’t work, the book doesn’t work, so I decided that my first priority should be to make sure my ridiculous story and all of the ridiculous things all the ridiculous characters do with their ridiculous time travelling hold water. I paid close attention to the details and minutiae to make sure everything lined up the way it was supposed to.
2. No More Character Ventriloquism
As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to have some issues with my dialogue. One of my biggest problems is that, if I’m not careful, all of my characters have my speech patterns instead of their own. Accordingly, on my second revision, I focused my attention on whether each character’s spoken lines reflected the way they would actually speak. Distinct voices help create distinct characters. I dislike when too many similar characters blur together, especially when they’re central to the plot. If you’re aware of any of your own weaknesses as a writer, I think it’s probably wise to spend some dedicated time to addressing those issues in your work.
3. Thematic Themes and Stuffy Stuff
Though I’d had some of my themes and morals-of-the-story in mind while writing, they’d been related in a jumbled, opportunistic fashion and hadn’t really been given the chance to gel naturally in context. My third editing session gave allowed me to flesh out all those themes, dabble with some mild symbolism, and do all that lame stuff that makes me feel like I’m writing great literature in the form of a funny story about a guy who buys a time machine at a yard sale. It lets me feel like I have True Artist Cred.
4. The Ever-Important Feedback
The next step is to address any issues brought to my attention by my beta readers. All this crap can make perfect sense in my head, but with a premise as complicated as this one (hilariously complicated, I hope), it’s particularly important to make sure it all jives in a brain that isn’t, you know…mine. If my beta readers come back to me saying the whole thing was about as straightforward as Memento, Adaptation and The Matrix movies rolled into one, I’ll have a pretty good indication that it’s time to do another hefty round of rewrites.
Editing my own writing for grammar, spelling, rhythm and diction is something I’m pretty used to, so all those concerned remained as a kind of constant, passive objective. There are certain passages that underwent multiple rewrites across each of the different steps. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the results of my more focused, more goal-oriented approach to the revision process. I’m sure it’s far from perfect, though, and I plan to build upon it with my next book.
I think it even made the editing go by more quickly.