Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fast Revision 2 - Pencils ready for big stuff only

Last time, I finished up with a printed manuscript marked up to show story problems, including unnecessary passages, major inconsistencies, holes, dull parts, failures of story logic, and missed opportunities. Let's tackle these one at a time.

The first and easiest thing to do is to strike out passages that are not needed. Note, I never obliterate them and strike them from memory. Rarely, they reveal their value later, entering the story with different intent, prompting new ideas, or as the bases for scenes in a different manuscript. So I just put lines through these on the paper manuscript now. (Later on, I will cut and paste them into a clearly labeled deletions file.)

Next, I fix the major inconsistencies. Some of these, like time and calendar problems, can be avoided entirely by planning and note-taking during the composition phase. But I always seem to end up with someone acting out of character, inadvertently revealing a clue too early, or acting familiar with a character who's new. I get lucky at times and come across easy fixes to these problems, but, in most cases, they are pieces that impact other scenes. So I take them on, one by one, most important to least, and make the repairs. I have had my intuition jump in with one key change that can fix several of these. It happens more that you might expect, so be open to getting a break like this. It makes things easier and helps to give a more organic feel to the fixes.

Filling holes comes next, and these rarely solve themselves at this stage. Often, I just write what needs to happen in synopsis form, rather than composing the whole scenes.

Dull parts make me cringe. It is always easier to quiet things down than it is to amp things up. Often, I have to rewrite the whole passage without looking at the original. But before I move to that, I do something that is much simpler. I read the chapter (or chapters) as if the scene is not there, simply edited out. About half the time, the scene turns out to be unneeded or to have only a few elements that are required but can be put into other passages. So don't do the rewriting unless you have to.

My go-to method to check story logic is an approach from Jeffrey Kitchen, who uses Writing Backwards This only works if you know your story well enough to do a detailed outline, but now is not a bad time to be ready to do that. 

I actually do the story logic with a numbered list, so I can easily create lists that go forward or backward. This has many uses as I continue revision (including checking pacing and writing a synopsis), but there is one of immediate interest. With this simplified view of your story (a list of 50 to 100 scenes), you have an overview that reveals opportunities -- scenes you can hit harder, twists that are nascent, and places where you can drop in tougher challenges for your protagonist.  

At this point, I'm getting into the gorp of rewriting. While most of what I've mentioned is likely to apply to your manuscript, this is not the ultimate set of instructions. Some of my ordering has to do with how I like to work and how my mind works. You're a different person, so play around with these ideas and create your own path to revision. 

More on this next week. 

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