Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Systematic Revisions (redux)

I'm busy revising, so today I'm re-running an old post from just over a year ago. The topic? Revision, of course. I've edited it this to get right to the point.

I'm finding that approaching revisions systematically really helps take a lot of pain out of revising. Here's the general order I follow. I adapted this from Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell, which I've found to be really useful. 

1. Major plot edit. Instead of focusing on how many instances of "that" I could find and eradicate, I look at the story. The theme. The structure. I spend time making sure there's a clear beginning, middle, and end. I take time to work each section, make sure the climatic event is climatic, and the midpoint isn't saggy.

2. Character edit. All the characters get a careful look for story arc, motivation, goals. This is all part of what I think of as the broad revision stage. Some of the questions I ask myself are:

  • Is there a definite arc for my main character? Does she learn a lesson or change by the end, and is it clear?
  • Are my main character's goals resolved by the end of the book?
  • Are minor characters interesting? Do they act consistently throughout the book?
  • Have any minor characters taken over the story?
  • Do I care about what happens to the main character? (Realizing that I might not be able to ask this question because I'm too close.)
  • Do characters act in a cliched way?
Then I start looking at all the scenes my main character has with secondary characters, in order of secondary character, to ensure the relationship arc between them is clear.

One of the ways in which to check and make sure my characters are interesting, have an arc, and most importantly--are memorable--is to compare with other great characters I've read. Author Alexandra Sokoloff has a good post about making lists of such things in order to check yourself. I highly recommend it.

3. Sentence structure edit. This is a step above actual typo and word choice. It's about doing spot checks and making sure whole swaths of paragraphs don't suck.

4. Fine edit. This is typos, punctuation, and capitalization. This is grammar. 

How about you? What do you do? 


Stina Lindenblatt said...

Thanks for the recommendations and suggestions. I've been meaning to get Jame's book for when I revise my latest first draft (once it comes back from it's vacation).

Cathryn Leigh said...

Currently I'm going for a plot edit. when the first book of what beacme a trilogy spans more time than the second two books and has a lot less pages, something's missing. (and that doens't go into some of the continuity errors, because the stroy evolved so much from the orignal hand writen draft) *grin*

I haven't gotten too far yet on that revision. I've decided I ought to take a writing course before I get too far. *giggles*

:} Cathryn

Steven J. Wangsness said...

I don't break it down exactly, but I would say the first editing job is basically a plot/theme one -- does the plot work, are things missing, are there contradictions, is it sensible? While I certainly do line editing as I go through the first draft and write the second, I get much more serious and involved in that in later drafts. I wound up editing and revising Tainted Souls ("intelligent and entertaining," says the latest review on Goodreads -- yay me!) about 15 times or more, but the real heavy lifting was done by the end of the third draft, I'd say.

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