I’ve told you all before how amazing my friend Kristine Kruppa is, right? She led our writers’ group this month and talked about the revision process, using a lot of her experiences from revising her novel and giving me some good insight on the revisions she just gave me for my manuscript. I’m excited to share with you some things we learned.
First, revising and editing are different in a very notable way. Editing implies line editing, looking at structure and grammar and improving it. Revising comes earlier in the process and is on a story-level. You have to revise before editing or else your edits might get revised away. After finishing the first draft, leave the story for about a week or so to get some distance from it. Then do a read-through and start the revision process.
The first thing to look for is characters. Could any be cut from the plot if they don’t contribute to the action? Maybe combining two characters into one makes more sense to reduce the number of characters. The motivation behind each character must be believable and drive their actions. As many characters as possible should have an arc and develop through the book.
The setting is sometimes easier in contemporary novels that it will be for science fiction, speculative fiction, or fantasy. Many times, an outsider will show up in a created world to help build it. While this is the easiest way to do it, others can build one from scratched. Our group touched on transitioning between settings. It’s not always necessary to have the character driving from home to work, but you need to know as the writer how that happened.
The plot is the biggest area to look at. Is your plot predictable? CHANGE THAT! You want to keep the reader guessing until the end. Look for plot holes. Does anything happen for a reason that doesn’t make sense? Does anything contradict? Also look at the flow of the book. Pacing is hard to fix but try to use subplots to keep the book moving. A really key part to pace is the climax. We all said we’d read books where the climax happened too fast. After the whole rising action, it’s okay to linger on the climax a bit so the reader feels satisfied with the resolution. One member suggested exploring third level emotions. (More at this link, scroll down until you see the questions in bold.) This technique is pulling out the less obvious emotions a character has at a key moment and expanding on that feeling. Make sure that this climax and resolution happen for every character arc and subplot, not just the main one.
Read the manuscript through at least once more, making sure you caught everything. One suggestion Kristine had was doing a draft map. For this, she writes down the POV character, characters involved, purpose, and a synopsis of each scene. Any that don’t add to a plot or subplot can be scratched and it helps with pacing for main and subplots.
Next, make the changes!
After you’ve revised, it’s time to turn to Beta readers. Kristine suggests 2-5 who read the genre of your book. It might be great to hear what your mom says, but if she reads high fantasy like mine does, her feedback on my 1920s YA book might not be as helpful. One exception to this is if you’ve written something you don’t know well and what someone to check it for you. I’ve written a book about a woman during her pregnancy. I need to have someone who’s had a child read that one, even if they don’t read women’s fiction. My YA book has a male protagonist; I’ve asked several male friends who were at one time 17-year-old boys to read it for that reason. If your book has occupational details, try getting someone in that field to read it. Ask the Beta reader questions that help drive at the points brought up earlier.
Kristine is one of my beta readers and has given me some amazing advice. If you haven’t read her book yet, please go take a look!
Until next time, write on.