blog about reviews writing

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Revision: An (Un?)Expected Journey

In late 2011, you might recall hearing about the completion of the novel that I've been working on for what seems like forever.  Pretty soon after, about *coughcough* months ago, I started revising. 

Oh dear.  Revising.  You writers know what I'm talking about.  You know, revising?  Turning your 85,000 word pile of nonsense into something more legible? 

Or at least, going through and renaming everybody who is currently named "Cedric".  Maybe that's not a problem every writer has, but it's something at least I had to do.  At one point in my story, I had a very minor character, a soldier, who needed a name.  This character wasn't important enough for me to spend hours pondering a name, so I just named him "Cedric" and figured I'd rename him later.  It ended up that I had about 8 people like that who needed names.  And so they all became Cedrics.

Why Cedric?  Because this quote: "Cedric, you're like this guy, that's just--around, all the time, when I don't need a guy around. You're this spare guy, all the time, this spare dude. You're SUCH a SPARE!"*

And so, when finished with my first draft, I had a prologue that needed to be deleted but ohmygoodnessican'tbeartoseeitgo, plot threads that were never wrapped up, eye colors that randomly changed throughout the novel, a chapter 11 and 13 but not 12, several billion adverbs, and 8 people named Cedric.

But I began the revision journey, despite the daunting task that it was.  I was actually kind of excited to do it.
Revising any novel is an adventure.  Even an 85,000 word novel that's this big:

I'm quite proud of the size, actually.  I like having a printed copy of the book.  I like being able to hold it and say "This is what I was doing all those hours typing away on the computer." 

Sometimes, revision is fun.  You can see progress!  Yay!  I'm irrationally proud of how red some of these pages are.  On one hand, yuck.  My writing was that bad?  On the other hand, look how much better it'll be now!

These are my worst (best?) two pages.  Just so, if you've never revised a novel, you can see all the red marks that happen.  Again, I'm prouder of this than I should be.


Maybe someday I'll go through and analyze all the changes I made and turn it into some sort of how-to-revise article type thing.  Or maybe not.
When revising, you often find things you weren't expecting.  Like references to books that, at the time the first draft was written, you hadn't read.  Case in point:
"Winter is coming, he thought."  (That line, by the way, ended up getting deleted.)
Because apparently my main character is tossing around the "Brace yourselves...winter is coming" line now.  And apparently Ned Stark lives on.  Brace yourselves...revision is coming?  (This isn't the first time I've subconsciously made a literature reference.  A poem I wrote in ninth grade was handed back to me with a note that said "see me".  A little freaked out, I went and talked to the teacher, thinking I had written a terrible poem or something.  But no, my teacher just pointed at a line in the poem and basically said, "Do you realize you have a Greek mythology reference here?"  But I digress.)
In some cases, while revising, I underestimated my writing.  I went overboard on removing passive voice and deleting adverbs.  I deleted nearly 300 adverbs from this novel.  Three.  Hundred.  Which begs the question: What was I thinking, to write 300 adverbs in the first place?  What kind of madness is that?
And yet, I had to restrain myself from automatically crossing out every adverb I came across.  I learned to pull back and consider each adverb rather than ending its life just because of all the wonderful parts of speech it could have been born as, it had the misfortune of being an adverb. 
Sometimes, though, revision is not as fun as you want it to be.  Sometimes you get tired of your story and you just wish everyone could get along.
First-drafting is letting your characters run amok and deciding how they want the story to happen.  Non-writers will be sitting there, thinking "Um, they're fictional characters.  They don't exist.  They can't do anything the author didn't tell them to do."  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  This is not the case.  An author's characters do, indeed, have their own minds and sometimes act of their own accord.  How else can I explain the plot points that happening without me planning them?  How else do you explain the random characters that popped up out of nowhere?
And they never have the decency to pop up fully formed out of nowhere.  No, springing out in full armor and ready for battle from the head of Zeus the author is something that only happens, apparently, in ancient Greece.  Instead, these characters come into your story and start manhandling your plot, and now you have to go and develop their backstory because they have no consideration for your revision woes. 
But anyway.  Back to characters controlling the story.  Often times, the things your characters do of their own accord work for the story.  You write something, realize you hadn't planned that at all, and you know your MC decided that one himself.  But sometimes, it doesn't quite work.  My MC made a few decisions on his own.  One of them was to step out of the friendzone I had so carefully placed him in.  I didn't even realize that happening when I was doing the first draft.  No, it wasn't until I was revisng, editing all the interactions between him and the main heroine, that I realized that he was not firmly inside his little friendzone bubble.  Oh, it's subtle, but it's there.  Davi, why must you get yourself into more trouble than you already are?   
So then, if first-drafting is letting your characters run amok and being all "I do what I want!", revising is putting them back in their place and reminding them (less than gently) who is really in charge here.
(Because there is obviously a Loki gif** for every part of revision.  Revision, in Loki terms:
First draft: Author: I am burdened with glorious drafting (though I am not overly fond of what follows).  Characters: I do what I want!
Revision: Author: KNEEL!  Your plot was made to be ruled.  Characters: *all assume the I-just-found-out-my-true-parentage face, otherwise known as The Face That Launched A Thousand Fandoms*
Characters again: Are you ever NOT going to fall for that?
And then, sometimes, you honestly just feel like this during revision:

But then, you actually finish revision.  And your plot-hole-filled, badly paced, adverb-riddled mass of words is now something readable.  Something good
And maybe now my characters and I can agree on a plot that works for all of us. 
In summary:
Revision: Sometimes fun.  Sometimes not-so-fun.  (But more fun with gifs, honestly.)  It can feel like you're trying to turn My Immortal into War and Peace.***   It's sometimes like this:
It's the I'm-Chris-Hemsworth-and-I'm-Going-To-Catch-That-Prop-If-It-Takes-All-I've-Got feeling.**** 
All in all, I guess my main thing to take away is that I now actually know how to revise a novel (this was my first time doing it). 
I'm hoping to get some query letters sent out sometime in the near future.  Wish me luck!  And maybe eventually I'll tell you what my next book is about.

*100 points if you can tell me who said that.
**We all know that the real reason he's the villain is because Tony and the gang didn't let him join the shawarma-fest.  Also, you see that cane-flip?  I heard somewhere that Tom Hiddleston did that in one take.  Apparently it was a "I couldn't do that again in a million years if I tried" thing.
***Though I could argue that, for various reasons, My Immortal is actually a masterpiece.
****I'll admit it--this gif gets funnier the longer you watch it.  And Chris Evans looks kinda funny doing...whatever he's doing.  And now I'm just wondering how the Mjolnir prop weighs.  (I've realized, by the way, that the best way to pronounce "Mjolnir" without injuring myself is "Thor's hammer".)

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  2. This entire post just screams, "TUMBLR! I AM TUMBLR! TUMBLR IS MY MOTHER, MY FATHER, MY SEMI-INCESTFUL BROTHER AND MY DEAD PIGEON!" Therfore, I salute you! You are one of the Fandom Ones. May your way be guided by hope.

    Another thing: WOOO YOU WROTE A BOOK! I'm in the midst of writing one at present (not for the first time, I add sourly) and I always forget how long it takes to write a mere four paragraphs. And then after two hours, you're like, "Well, I only missed my day's quota of a chapter by like 74%." My characters are completely untameable. And rude. And incredibly ungrateful. They're all, "I refuse to listen to anything you say. I WILL remove myself from this predicament by calling upon Gandalf." And in the meantime I'm shouting desperately, "FANTASY IS NOT YOUR GENRE! AND YOU CAN'T JUST NICK SOMEONE ELSE'S CHARACTER! IT'S BAD CONDUCT! NOW SIT DOWN AND BEHAVE!" It's like trying to control hyperactive toddlers.

    The best of luck with your editing!

  3. I'm laughing my head off here imagining your character's confusion at these eight Cedrics.

    And the eight Cedrics stood in a line, staring at him owlishly.)

    Also, congratulations on completing your novel! :D
    I'm in the middle of revision now. My characters keepy confusing me and also I realised I left out an important plot point by accident and from that point onwards the story makes no sense XD
    Hmm, I've got some work to do...


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