Category Archives: novel revisions

>Revising a Nano Novel, Pt. 1: Perspective

>Revising a novel can be daunting no matter what. Never mind when it’s a bit…messy. And writing a novel-in-a-month often means a messy first draft. But don’t despair. Just because your book may look like a wreck doesn’t mean it’s unsalvageable.

Reading with Perspective
I wrote The Jester’s Apprentice in January 2009 (originally it was titled Philippa’s Neverending Series of Pointless Conversations). I got wrapped up writing Dead Locked that same year and forgot all about Jester’s for a while. Months later, I read the draft for the first time and felt sorry for the two people who had read it.

Well, while I worked on DL, Jester’s kept nagging me. There was at least one good thing about the story so I imagined I would just scrap everything else and start with that. I had all these ideas, which totally changed the story, when I read the draft again (over a year later). This time I saw things with a new set of eyes. For one thing, I had learned a lot about novel writing since then so I read with more experience. Second, the physical and emotional distance from the novel helped me read with more optimism. I saw the book’s potential, not just its pitfalls.

First drafts always need breathing time. Or, rather, you do. You won’t necessarily make the right decisions when you’re too close. If you wrote a novel-in-a-month last November, you’ve had about three months to leave it alone. Maybe this is enough time. Maybe it isn’t. I needed more space from Jester’s, but I also had another project in full swing to finish. If you’re unsure if you’re ready, pull out your manuscript and read it. Your reaction may gauge if you’re ready to start revising.

Now, you may ask, ‘Should I even bother?’ You may think that meandering, padded, confusing manuscript is more trouble than it’s worth. But look at it this way: you wrote a complete first draft of a novel! It’s not an undeveloped concept in your notebook. It’s not an outline. It’s not a series of false starts. It’s a complete first draft of a novel!

Do you know how hard it is to write a book? Yes, you do! Because you just did it in November. Or January. Or some other month. You wrote a whole book. A whole book that just needs a little TLC and it’s ready to go out into the world. You already did one of the hardest parts of the process and you made it to the end. Why quit now? You have something this close to being done. So now I ask, should you bother?

I’m going to assume you said yes to that last question because I tell you that it is worth revising. Whatever the problems, your novel also has all the energy and excitement that you felt when you wrote it. You can always make technical improvements, but you only write with your heart once.

So you’ve got perspective, now you want to revise. Where do you start? Next week we’ll uncover the secret first step to a successful revision. Well, not really. But I will show you how to evaluate your novel so the revision process starts out smoothly and doesn’t overwhelm you. Stay tuned!

Photo by Cory Doctorow

>Neverending Revisions and Dead Locked Snippet


What stage is your WIP in? I’m completing another major swipe of Dead Locked. This should be (will be!) the last round where any major changes occur. I don’t know what it is about this particular go around, but I swear it won’t end. I work and work and work and at the end look to see how much I have left and it’s always the same answer: a LOT! Sheesh! I keep telling myself it’s downhill from here. After this, it’s smaller changes and more focus on the details. We’re almost done! I keep saying I’m taking a break when this is finished. I’m going on a mental vacation and not writing! But it’s a lie. I have two other novels well under way and they won’t leave me alone!
As a little reminder of why we write and what makes the pain and suffering all worthwhile, I thought I’d share another snippet from my book. This is one of my favorite scenes and hopefully you’ll like it too. Enjoy!

Imogen Bell waited for Sebastian at his house, planning to attack him with good looks and charm. She propped open her pink cosmetic case on the toilet seat since he only had a pedestal sink, and examined her options for the evening. About the time she was sliding brown tinted mascara onto her eyelashes to accentuate her cat eyes, the outside screen door slammed.
 He didn’t bother to find her out, which meant he was opposing her silently. She smirked at her reflection, her apple cheeks now glowing pink. The imperfections around her heart-shaped face smoothed over, she latched her cosmetic case and unzipped the garment bag slung over the bathroom door. Sebastian didn’t even have a hook to hang anything on.

Imogen waited a few minutes until she heard the fridge door shut, then slunk into the living room, her body wrapped in a strapless black dress ruched around the bust then curving down to her calves. She walked by Sebastian casually, who munched on chips in front of the TV, relishing his brown eyes following her across the room. She took her time leaning over to pick out a beverage from the fridge, letting him absorb all the benefits of suffering in a tux for a few hours. She smiled to herself, remembering the way Caroline Ferrars had studied her earlier, and she had to admit having more than just an impressive mind didn’t hurt.

She walked back around and carefully sat down next to him on the olive green couch. She opened a water bottle, holding it away from her and took a sip.

“It’s all yours,” she said, pointing to the bedroom. Sebastian’s eyes flitted over her figure. Imogen imagined him calculating what spending an evening with her in that dress was worth. He stuffed another chip in his mouth and chewed slowly.

“What do I get in return for doing this?”

Imogen met his gaze.

“You’re bargaining with me?” She said.

“Aren’t you?”

Imogen looked up at the ceiling and shrugged.

“What do you want?”

Sebastian ate another chip.

“If I go tonight,” he said, “I get to skip the next lunch, dinner – event – that comes up.”

Imogen raised an eyebrow.

“That’s it?”

“That’s all I was asking for tonight.”

“Good point. Sounds like a deal to me. Now go get ready before it gets any later.”

Sebastian vanished behind the bedroom door. He reappeared a short time later, and Imogen appraised his long, lean figure against the doorway, hands dug into his pants pockets. Everything about Sebastian was long and lean. From his nose and jawline to his palms and fingers. He was sinew and muscle and little else.

“For all your insistence that this is a waste of time,” Imogen said, “you’ve cleaned up nice.”

She noted that he’d even made an effort to tame his almost-black hair by gelling it back away from his face. She thought she actually preferred it the other way. He walked forward, the heels on his square toe dress shoes clicking against the wood floor, with a pen and two yellow legal-size papers in his hand. He set them on the coffee table.

“What’s that?” She said.

“Our bargain. I go tonight, the next event that comes up I don’t have to go to. Pretty basic. I already signed.”

Imogen laughed.

“You’re not seriously making me sign a contract?”

“There are two copies to sign there so we each have one.”

She laughed again.

“Well,” she said as she signed, “I’ll be sure to put this in my security box first thing on Monday.”

Imogen stuffed the contract into her black satin clutch and balanced against the wall to squeeze her feet into a pair of pointy-toed black heels. Sebastian folded himself into Imogen’s yellow VW Bug after she protested that her chin-length red hair, now perfectly flipped out at the edges, would be destroyed if they rode in his Jeep. In about ten minutes, and several laughing fits later, they pulled into the yacht club parking lot and Sebastian surrendered the keys to the valet. The sun was low over the harbor, its reflection rippling over the water’s surface. Imogen admired the calm for a moment, still giggling, then walked through the glass door, Sebastian on her heels.

Photo by doortoriver

>The Follies of Excessive Editing

>Do you ever get out of control when you edit or revise? I get so excited about revisions sometimes that I can turn into an editing fanatic and cut things that don’t deserve it. Then I end up either writing new material to flesh out what’s left after the massacre or put old material back in.

I think part of my problem is I read a lot about what to chop from a novel but not so much about what to leave in. A story is more than bones; it’s muscles and skin and freckles. So if you chop, chop, chop until all you have is the skeleton, it’s not going to be a very exciting read (or long one). There needs to be a balance. Just because details or information aren’t necessary from a plot perspective does not always mean they should go. Books are only interesting if you have enough time and details to know the people involved in the story too. And that takes words.

I’ve talked about cutting extraneous information from novels, which is also necessary. But you can go to the other extreme too. And I have. So I really believe there needs to be a balance. Don’t write a novel full of pointless scenes or dialogue, but don’t cut out everything just because it’s not related to the main thrust of the story. I’ve decided this is an art in itself and one that I’m still learning.

How do you decide what to leave in and what to edit? Do you ever get a little cuckoo and cut too much?

>Barreling Down on Novel Revisions

>So July 1 is my deadline to have major revisions of my novel finished, e.g. writing new scenes, axing others, and moving some scenes around. Happily, it’s in good order at this point so I’m excited to move forward and start smoothing things out soon. It’s always thrilling the closer you get to the nitty-gritty editing and major changes are no longer necessary. It’s also a little frightening when you realize it’s time to stop fussing and send your baby out into the world. But at this point, I’m ready to let’er fly.

What exciting stage are you at with your work-in-progress?

>Novel Revisions Are Like Cleaning House


While groping to explain the revision stage of novel writing to my facialist yesterday, I hit upon the perfect illustration. I realized that revising any type of writing can be a lot like spring cleaning. You have to make a mess to make everything all bright and shiny again. And for a while, your house is more of a disaster than it was to begin with. But eventually as you sort through things, throw things away, and put new things in order, your house looks like new again.

Revisions are similar. Right now, my novel is unreadable to anyone but me (though that’s changing quickly). I’ve ditched scenes, added scenes, moved scenes around. I’m missing transitions, the chapter breaks went to Hades a long time ago, and several original scenes need to be rewritten to reflect changes to the plot. In other words, it looks a mess. But just like cleaning a house, you take things one stage at a time.

The first stage for me was figuring out where to add the new scenes. I grabbed my handy-dandy index cards, wrote out the scenes on them, and sat on my living room floor for an afternoon and arranged them. The next step was reorganizing the scenes in my manuscript (I used placeholders for the unwritten scenes). Then, I got down to business writing the new scenes without worrying about transitions. I just wanted to get all the key elements in place.

Now, I’m starting to revamp original scenes that have wrong, inconsistent, or repetitive information. I’m also working to harmonize scenes or bits of narrative and dialogue that have been squished together. The mess is fading and a new and improved manuscript is shining through. Eventually, I will get down to the nitty-gritty editing work. For now, it’s all about cleaning up the story.

What would you liken your revisions to?

On a completely different topic, this Friday, June 18, join the Breaking the Rules Blogfest over at Elizabeth Mueller’s blog. Along with other participants, I’ll post writing from my past that doesn’t exactly meet the standards we all aspire to. It should be fun, not to mention motivating to see how far we’ve all come!

Photo by josh.liba