I’ve Been Revising My Novel …
I’m conscious that February 2015 is rushing on its merry way and I’ve hardly posted here at all. Poor blog is feeling very neglected!
However, I haven’t been idling away the time or out on endless jollies – since Christmas I’ve either been ill or revising my novel, sometimes both at the same time. I am usually fairly healthy, but I’ve clocked up three viruses since Christmas, or maybe it’s all the same one with a few respites in between!
But this post is not about illness but revision, and I thought I’d share some of my reflections here, as I know some of you are writers on a similar journey and others are readers interested in the writing process.
- After not looking at the novel for six weeks once I’d finished the first draft, I printed out a copy. Things I don’t notice on the screen often leap off the hard copy shouting ‘What am I doing here?’ I spent three intense days reading it from beginning to end, writing myself occasional notes or putting asterisks on the page for things I wanted to return to. I tried to read it as a reader would (although that’s very difficult). I also ignored the outside world as I didn’t want anything to interfere with my fictional world.
- I then reread it on the page, identifying everything that could go. Some people suggest this micro-revision later on in the process, but I wanted to get rid of the clutter. I knew I had a lot of introspection, as I’d tried to write myself into the character’s situation and thoughts. Sometimes I found it hard to let it go, but it’s so satisfying to cross out a whole paragraph and realise it was redundant.
- I went back to the screen and deleted all words, sentences, paragraphs I’d identified. It was amazing how many other redundancies presented themselves while I had my ‘delete head’ on. Seeing my total word count diminish proved as satisfying as watching it grow at the first draft stage. I finished the revision with 107,000 words down from 123,000 when I started. My aim is to get it lower on subsequent rewrites.
- I thought about the characters. One of my original fears was that one of my main characters was too unlikeable. I wanted him to be flawed, but if everyone found him too much of a turn-off, they wouldn’t bother with him at all. I like him, despite his faults, so I tried to make his situation and character more understandable. My second main character also needed more substance. I realised I needed to be more sure about her back story, so that her character arc made sense.
- One problem I hadn’t noticed in the first draft was that the two characters often had similar scenes. when they were interacting with other characters, for example each had something important to say to their partner and I had them both planning a meal, cooking it, opening wine, lighting candles … ! And worse than that, the scenes were in chapters that followed on from each other. I had to decide which character had more emotional need of that situation and which would provide more interest for the reader. I cut the other one right back.
- The characters needed to be psychologically and emotionally real. In one instance, one of the characters suffers major emotional upset. I usually write in a fairly controlled way, but I went to town on this in my draft! When I reread it, it seemed melodramatic and yuk-making (not a technical term!). I deleted a lot of it.
- I analysed the plot to see if it was strong enough to sustain a whole novel. Does enough happen? Is there enough conflict? Does the conflict relate to the theme? Is the cause and effect within the plot logical/believable?
- I struggled with the time line in places. The two main characters, Ollie and Louise, are brother and sister. Although they’re each living separate lives, they overlap at certain moments, and it wasn’t always easy to coordinate all the events.
- It’s so important to get the opening and the ending right. I’d already done a number of rewrites for the opening, and my original chapter 1 is now chapter 3, with a new chapter 1. I feel reasonably confident at this stage about this. The ending needs to answer the question which the opening poses, whether implicitly or explicitly. I added to my ending in the rewrite, but I know it’s rushed with a lot crammed into it. I hope I can improve it.
There’s a lot more I could write, but I’d better stop, if I don’t want to bore you all rigid. I’ve sent the manuscript to an editor now, and I’m going to try to leave it until I receive the feedback. I hope it will contain a lot of suggestions, but that I won’t be crushed by it. I already know some things I want to add or change. I’m itching to get back to it and feel in limbo without it.Tags: editing, revising, revision