Saturday, October 23, 2010

Don't Skimp the Revisions

Maybe eventually I'll have an idea for a blog post that doesn't deal with revising, but that's where I'm at. Still. Been there for a long time. It's the trick of making that first book really stand out, really shine. It's taken three versions to get there, but I'm nearly done.

That's not what I wanted to talk about though. I mean, it is. Sort of.

I remember very clearly the first time I finished writing a novel. I only vaguely remember the first time I tried to revise a novel. I don't think I got very far into the process before I tossed it to the side in lieu of a new, more interesting project. That's not to say I've never finished revising a book before. I have. Several times, actually.

I've learned a lot from all the revising I've done. Especially in this last year. I've seen some things recently that have made me appreciate all the work I've done.

Mostly, it's that revising isn't easy, and there are no short cuts. Not if you want your book to be the best it can. Between draft one and draft two, I cut 47,000 words. That's not including the 20k something I cut when I first started the first draft, and it doesn't include the 23k cut from the third draft, which I'm barely passed the half-way mark on working on.

I'm not saying you have to cut an entire novel's length of work out to make your book good. I have, because despite the massive amounts of writing I've done in the last four years, there's still a lot I have to learn about writing a good novel.

What I'm trying to prove is that I haven't taken any short cuts. I haven't said "Oh, well, this is good enough, I'll just leave it in." Nope. If it doesn't work pretty damn close to perfectly, out it goes. Of course, a little change made in the beginning can effect huge changes later in the manuscript.

So far, it's been my experience that there are not "little changes." They might start out as little, but revising has this domino effect. One change starts off a whole chain of other changes to be made, which can branch off into other changes. Part of the key to successful revising is reigning in that domino effect and working the changes without disrupting the whole damn story.

Which I've had a hard time learning, but I'm getting there.

Revising can be daunting (heaven knows how long I've put off working on this chapter because of the changes I have to make, and the changes the changes will make, and remember the dominos!), but it's worth it to take your time. Your book will be better for it.

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