Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fast Revision 3 - Tuning the tale

If you've been following along through Revision 1 and Revision 2, you now have a good, solid, mostly consistent story. I call this the green copy, meaning you could do a quick spellcheck and send it to early, tolerant readers. At this stage, they could answer key questions -- does it grab my attention, does it lose my attention, does it confuse me anywhere, and is the ending satisfying.

Anyone who reads in your genre should be able to answer these questions and their answers should be valuable. They will all highlight what's working and what's not working. What you should not worry about is any suggestions on how to fix the problems. Even if the suggestions come from writers, they are not likely to be useful.

Whether you choose to expose your work to people at this point or not, you need to keep working. The next thing I usually do is try to identify the theme. It should be visible, and, once identified, it can be used to evaluate the scenes in the story to see whether they contribute to the theme, could contribute with rewriting, or don't contribute or work against the theme. Themes are frustrating because they tend to devolve into truisms like "there's no place like home," but going scene-by-scene to bring the story into alignment promotes unity, which smooths the tale in a way that is otherwise difficult or even impossible.

I'm plot-centric, so my next step is focusing on scene construction. Does each one have a beginning, middle, and end? Are there enough beats or turns and do they come often enough? Does each one have a hook (even a soft hook) at the beginning and something at the end (it need not be a cliffhanger) to keep the reader turning pages? Is there the right mix of action, narrative, and reflection? Does the character act in a way that creates change? Does the change foil or complicate the character's quest?

You may wish instead to focus on your characters at this point. Do they act reasonably? Does the protagonist grow and change? Do supporting characters highlight the struggle the character is going through? Does the protagonist have agency throughout, or do things "just happen" to him or her? Does the character feel strong emotions the reader can relate to? Does the character avoid advancing the plot through stupidity?

Once the work on scene construction and characters is completed, the whole manuscript probably needs a full reading. Chances are more inconsistencies have cropped up, and there will be new opportunities worth developing. These can be marked during the reading and then fixed. Also, during this stage, attention should be paid to the pacing. Generally, the pacing should increase as you move toward the ending. This can be accomplished through shortening scenes and chapters, but also through including less narrative and streamlining the language. Mostly, the changes and emotions need to come at a more rapid pace.

Next time, I'll conclude this series by digging into polish and mechanics. And, as a caveat lector, please remember, my way is not the only way or necessary the right way for you. Respect your own process and what your intuition says about how you should revise your manuscript. Use this as a prompt to develop new ideas and make sure you aren't skipping any steps.

No comments:

Post a Comment