Thursday, July 18, 2013

Getting into revision

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.


Anonymous said...

Madeline, you are surely working hard, and that's what it takes at this stage. Thinking about you as you nurture your "baby."

BTW, I'm enjoying interacting with the women at WOW. My review of Donald Dempsey's Betty's Child is scheduled for Monday, 7/22.

Unknown said...

Agree with everything you say about revision. Every first book writer should read this piece before they think that writing "The End" is actually the end of working on their book. It's where the hard work begins. Also, revision adds depth and layers to the book. As for this being a grueling process, you're so right! Spent 5 hours revising 7 pages only to discover that it still needed more work. Oh well, revision is also an opportunity to turn a manuscript into a great book.

madeline40 said...

Thanks Sherrey. I knew it was hard going in, but not this hard. It will be well worth it if I can turn it into a great book, as "unknown" says below. I'm into the depth and layers stage.

I'm glad you're enjoying the WOW folks. I'm sure they'll be contacting you again. I look forward to your review of Betty's Child. Mine goes up on the 24th. What a read!

kathleen pooler said...

Dear Madeline, This is a timely post for me as I work through my own revisions. Since it is my first book, I am developing a system as I go and feel like I'm learning all the hard lessons in this go-around. Your post reminds me of the importance of organizing and saving all versions in case any "murdered darlings" need to be resuscitated. Thank you for your helpful advice!

Carol Bodensteiner said...

I'm doing a tight edit on my manuscript now, too, Madeline. My tendency is to over explain, often giving two descriptors when one will do. So I'm working for tighter, and the result is so much better. Good luck with your revisions. It's worth the effort.

Carol Bodensteiner said...

I'm working on line-by-line edit of my manuscript now, too. I, too, find it slow going. My tendency is to over explain, using two descriptors when one will do. So my question is always, "Can I write this tighter?" Good luck with your revision, Madeline. It's worth the effort.

madeline40 said...

Kathy and Carol, I'm so glad to know I have partners also struggling through the hard jobs of editing and revision. We have a lot to commiserate about. But I think in the long run our products will be much better for it.
Thanks for reminding me, Carol, not to over explain. Even thought I was advised to delve deeper there's a fine line between that and over doing it.
And Kathy, I think spending the time organizing and saving will be well worth it. Good luck with your first book. I can't wait to read it.