I took a workshop in novel revision last February and began my revision work in full force in March. My first job was to make sure every chapter was complete. In many cases I found I needed to add descriptions, research details, and dialogue, Once I did that, I could finally say I had a complete novel draft ready to be revised. That became revision 1 which I collected in a computer folder called 02. Novel Chapters.
Then, as advised in the workshop, I printed out a hard copy of the entire draft and read it through, taking notes in a notebook – not on the draft material itself – to indicate what fixes I thought I needed to make.
I also took a couple of detours. I inserted the Prologue into Chapter One and changed the tense in that chapter from present to past. However, I still haven’t yet decided to keep or integrate the Prologue into the main text and/or to change the entire novel into past tense. Hopefully my beta readers will advise me on that.
At this point I’m working through my second pass-through of the draft and creating revision 2 that I will place in a folder called 03. Novel Chapters. See my screen shot on how I’ve arranged these files. Needless to say, I save everything – just in case I have to resurrect one of the “babies I’ve murdered” in my haste.
I’m lucky to have specific feedback from my writing group and novel classmates to help me revise the first few chapters, which unfortunately don't exist for later chapters. So I plan to apply the gist of their comments as I get further along. I also made a list of things to be aware of as I edit:
- Use Point of view correctly – the hardest part for me to keep straight
- Use more metaphors
- Excessive use of “he” and “she”
- Use action verbs instead of passive voice
- Show emotional response in characters
- Look for and get rid of repetition, inconsistencies, and typos
- Add more specific details that show rather than tell
- Take away definition of foreign Yiddish words; rather use definition in dialogue or description.
My workshop instructor also gave me three helpful pieces of advice to apply overall:
- Slow down
- Delve deeper into the details
- Draw out the moments.
It’s no wonder it took me almost three hours to revise the first two pages of Chapter 4 yesterday. Yes, this work grueling and slow, but I really was getting into it. Hopefully I’ll feel the same today.