When it comes to revision, think BIG.
Big mistakes, big changes. Forget about the finicky word alterations or improving sentence structure. If you sweat the small stuff at this stage, you’ll lose sight of the bigger picture… and you’ll also lose your mind. Not to mention, if you’ve still got big changes happening, why waste your time on the details that won’t matter if you end up cutting the chapter entirely?
So what should we focus on when revising?
1. Overarching Goal / Theme.
What’s the point of your story? You had a clear idea what it was at the beginning of the novel, but was it as clear at the end? Did you lose your way while getting caught up in all the action? It’s good to keep this in mind while re-reading your story. If you need to, write it on a piece of paper and tape it to the wall in front of you.
Supporting characters have a tendency to come and go just when it’s convenient for us. But if they aren’t pivotal to the plot, are they really necessary? Do they add to the novel itself, or are they simply there to perform a function or task? If that’s the case, they can always be cut. Maybe one of your other, more important supporting characters can do the same job. Sometimes this can add new tension. For example, maybe Mr Smith is going to receive divorce papers. Sure, anyone could deliver them, right? Why not delegate the task to the woman who’s been crushing heavily on him for half the book?
Also, consider the progression of each character throughout the course of the novel. Do they still act, talk, and look the same at the end as they did at the beginning? If they don’t, then what happened? Was it an accident? Or did something happen to change this character, an event perhaps? Ensure that you’ve shown this natural development and that the reader understands what has happened.
3. Plot Progression.
Each scene and chapter are like the steps on a ladder. Each one should take the story closer to the inevitable conclusion, the climax. You may need to reorganize scenes to move the plot along so that the course of events makes sense. Anything that doesn’t make sense, cut it, move it, combine it. Check out this article to find out how.
4. Tying Up Loose Ends.
Sure, following your main plot line might be easy, but what about all the subplots or the supporting characters’ side stories? Have you wrapped all these up? And was it done so in a believable way, or was it a quick band-aid fix?
It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re writing 50,000+ words. Take brief notes about anything that’s easy to mix up, like character traits, dates, timeline, etc. Hopefully the other continuity errors will be obvious, say if you killed off a character in chapter two but he reappears in chapter ten (and he’s not a ghost / zombie / vampire / angel).
Use whatever tools or methods that work for you, whether it’s sticky tabs, or a notebook, or scribbles along the margin. But don’t get hung up on changing them now. Wait until you’ve gone right from beginning to end to keep the story straight in your mind. But whatever you do, don’t delete your old work. You might want it for future reference.
Want to know about the finer points, about those finishing touches otherwise known as editing? Check out next week’s post about revision vs editing and tips on how to finish off that manuscript before you stamp and send. And don’t forget to enter the GIVEAWAY to win one of three copies of Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook.