Thursday, July 2, 2009

Revision Update

OK, so I'm sure you're all sick of hearing about my revision process, but I'd like to keep track of each stage.

  1. Initial Reading: My real-life crit partner is still in the process of reading, but she's nearly two-thirds done. We're meeting on Saturday to discuss some pivotal scenes....
  2. First Draft Reading: My early readers have their copies! Now to sit back as patiently as I can and wait ;)
  3. My Own Revision Notes: This is what I really wanted to talk about...

At the end of each chapter, I'm forcing myself to write out a list of notes. I've been doing this long enough to know that I have certain strengths and weaknesses, so I'm targeting my own areas of weaknesses with this. Here's what I'm asking myself at each chapter:

  • Drive: I remind myself of each character's main drive in life. For example, one character has low self worth and doubts himself, another character is driven by a sense of loss for her parents and need to protect those she loves. Everyone in life has one main drive to why they make the decisions they do: it's what makes us who we are. So I remind myself of my character's drive at the end of each chapter and make sure they're acting accordingly. I don't remind the reader of it every instance, but I add a bit of dialog where one character says something a bit defeatist, or the other decides to do something herself so she doesn't put the others at risk. Think of Harry Potter: he didn't remind the reader he was an orphan every other page, but it was still a deep driving force for him throughout the entire series.
  • Event: This is simple: what happens. This won't work for everyone, but for me, I try to have one key event happen in every chapter. It sounds a little formulaic, but it doesn't read that way (I hope). Basically, with this note, I'm forcing myself to evaluate each single major event in each chapter--and whether it's worthy of progressing the plot. Sometimes we writers write really cool stuff...that has nothing to do with the plot. So I hope to use this to weed out some of the fluff.
  • Motivation: This is linked to drive, but I am going to be a little more specific. How do each of my main characters react to the major event in the chapter--and why do they act that way? By evaluating their motivation, I hope to keep the characters realistic, and spot irregularities within them.
  • Clue: This is a murder mystery, so I'm making sure that there's at least a subtle clue in each chapter. Yes, each chapter. I am striving for a bomb-shell like twist similar to that of Megan Whalen Turner's THE THIEF, and I'm hoping that my book has some re-readability factor to it. So I'm putting in at least one subtle clue per chapter, so that when the reader reads it the first time, they don't notice it's there, but when the reader reads it a second time, they stop and go "Wow! That was there on page two?! Cool!" This is my color red in THE SIXTH SENSE.*
  • Problem: This will not be in every chapter, but towards the middle, the main characters are going to have some problems to solve. In each chapter where there is a problem, I am going to closely examine the problem--because a problem I have in my own writing is making the characters do something because that's what I need them to do in order to progress the plot. They don't act logical, they follow my script. So when I encounter a problem in my text, I'm going to brainstorm at least three possible solutions, and then give a valid reason for my characters to do one of them. Because "just because I want them to" is not a good reason for them to solve the problem.
And that's it! That's what I'm listed out at the end of each chapter. I've already made a few corrections based on this method--in the first chapter, my main character feels claustrophobic and reacts based on that, but it fits much better with his character to have him react to feelings of low self worth (thanks, Christine, for helping me with that one!). So far, this seems to work. But I know that if this does work, it will only really work for this one manuscript. My strengths and weaknesses change with each manuscript I work on.

So, how about you? How do you tackle identifying and correcting the weaknesses in your manuscript?
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