A Twitter friend of mine, Patrice Caldwell, recently shared her revising process which led me to share mine and it occurred to me that it might be worthwhile to not just me but other people if I were to collect those tweets in a post and elaborate on them.
I am revising the novel I finished less than two weeks ago because clearly I can’t stop writing/revising for more than a week without feeling like my life is ending. I haven’t spoken about the novel much on here (but then I haven’t spoken about much here on this blog) but The Wild Ones is part social commentary, part fiction, and entirely feminist.
The novel is vastly different from anything I have written so far and I feel like it could offer the literary establishment something new but only if I manage to whip it into shape. To be completely honest, it is somewhat terrible right now but then, first drafts usually are. Add the fact that I actually the pantsed the entire thing (I’m an outliner through and through and you have a novel that is barely held together.
The good thing is, I am entirely aware of the faults. The bad thing the faults are many. Hah.
Which brings me to Step One When Revising a Novel (any novel):
The First Read-Through
Say you finished your novel one bright November morning and after a torrential outburst of tears at making it through alive, you resolve to leave it alone for at least a month before returning to it. However, you cannot leave well enough alone and send a copy to your poor agent and ask she read it and critique it so you can revise it.
Then barely two weeks later, you decided you have had enough rest and decide to start revising your masterpiece. You read the first page and it’s well enough so you continue reading and make conscientious notes–it’s not perfect but it’s close.
And then you read the page and you realize that what you have written is nowhere near perfect, not even in the same galaxy to perfect. In fact, it’s about the same distance from perfect as the earth is to the sun.
So you leave yourself mean notes because the embarrassment is crippling.
Another tip is to make chapter summaries. This will help you see structural deficiencies and figure what each chapter lacks. A CP suggested that I chart emotional highs and lows but that can come at a later stage.
Ask yourself the hard questions at this stage because you will be able to answer them without much penalty. Trying to answer the hard questions at a later date will make you cry. Loudly.
This is where I am at the moment.
Another thing I suggested paying attention to at this stage is the subtext. I don’t know if authors normally pay attention to subtext but since I’m first an academic, what the subtext says is important to me. There are many ways to use the subtext to add an extra dimension to your writing, an extra layer that will satisfy those readers who tend to read more deeply (like me) and maybe if your book is studied at a university sometime in the future, someone will discover that one esoteric fact/technique you used.
Sometimes the subtext can be harmful entirely unintentionally. Try not to be resistant to the idea that you could be unknowingly problematic. It happens. Though your CPs will be far more helpful in this instance to make you are of any problematic elements in your work.
Just keep in mind that while this book is something you have slaved over, dreamed about, and wept for, at the end, it is not perfect. You will need a certain level of detachment and distance from this novel to craft it into the best it can be. You will need to cut away things that you absolutely do not want to and you will need to sometimes submit to a vision of the novel that doesn’t match the original vision you had of it but that fits it better.
Don’t excuse or try to hide the novel’s flaws. Rip it apart and then put it back together. As I am trying to do.
Lord help me.
I will be back once I move on to Step Two (if Step One doesn’t kill me, that is.)