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Revision Is The Pleasure of Writing

As I write this blog, I will officially be halfway through writing my work in progress (the unofficially named The Earl's Son). I've been working steadily for almost 6 months on this novel and this is a big accomplishment. Of course, after I hit the 45,000 word mark, I could stop, but I think this might be a 60-70,000 word book. It's predecessor was over 70,000. There is something about large books that fascinates me. Maybe because they take so much longer to read. In my spare time, I've been reading 200-page Regency romance books that I bought for cheap at the flea market, due to their out-of-date nature. I love them to death, but I could read one in two days (not reading all day mind you). Even if I loved the story so much, I wouldn't be completely satisfied. That is why most authors write series. So they could have a shorter story in multiple volumes. I'm used to reading Stephen King. Although, I don't have enough ideas to fill 1,000-pages worth, I really enjoyed the story better when it took me longer to finish.

One such work is from Lavyrle Spencer called "November of the Heart". I read this book over 5 years ago without a literary standpoint, and the story line pulled me in. When I reread it this week, I realized the author used omniscient POV (Oh, no!), head-hopped, and used more dialogue than tags--you know, the she said, he said action bits. Despite these overlooked errors, I absorbed the book's wonderful story line, plot, and character development that inspired my early work so long ago. Pretty Lorna Barnett grew into a lady before our eyes, and handsome Norwegian boat builder Jens Harken showed her what was most important in life...love and family...despite their different social statuses. I felt satisfied when I closed the book and this is ALL that matters to me. Of course, part of the upstairs/downstairs romance plot is you never know if the h/H will have a HEA. I love these types...

I apologize reader, if I got carried away...you get my drift though, right? :)

As I get closer and closer to finishing the first draft, I start planning my revision process. I will admit, it's not my favorite part, but it's a crucial part of the creation process. You might even find pleasure in it. Here are some tips I've found that will help me along the way:

1) Plan your revisions before you finish writing the book. Some people make a list, while others use sticky notes to go through each scene and do the necessary repairs. I use index cards where I write the name of each chapter, which point of view the chapter is in, who the main characters are, what the setting is, then I list and describe the plot(s), list the key information, and lastly, I write how many pages the chapter is. This can be done before or after your novel is complete. Of course, if you wait until after you'll have all the chapters written already!

2) Once the book is complete, wait a couple weeks before reading it, again. The old adage 'time makes the heart grow fonder' is so true. We may love our work now, but once we forget what we wrote (focus on another project or occupy your mind elsewhere), we look at the work with a whole new and different perspective. You'll want to go over the story several times afterwards.

3) In the first draft, focus on grammar and spelling correction. We must spot what is easily seen before we delve much deeper into the story and really understand the meaning. Missing commas, misspelled words, etc., could stop any further revision in its tracks.

4) In the second draft, go over the plot/conflict/dialogue/theme. Some people use the sticky notes, lists, or index cards for this exercise. I place each index card in order and if something is out of place I'd move them around until they made complete sense with the story, then I make the changes in my draft. I've heard some authors make a storyboard, where their lists are expanded to display more information like character information, including their thoughts, feelings, etc., and the author would reorganize this as well. Usually to combat this, the plot description I write on the card includes the main character's feelings, thoughts, and dialogue to reflect what happens around him or her.

5) In the third draft, cut unnecessary words and sentences. According to "On Writing", Stephen King tells the writer to cut 10% from their finished project. You may wonder, why so much?, but some people say you should cut more. The reason being, if you have a large work, most of what you include is probably not needed. Unless every word you write furthers the plot, at least try to tighten some of your work. When I say "tighten" I mean condense. When you evaluate your re-worked scenes, there are questions to ask yourself like: Would this bore the reader? If yes, cut it! Does this scene further the plot, up the stakes for the characters, or provide conflict? If no, cut it! Finding the right questions to ask is the easy part, choosing what to cut on the other hand could make even the most stoic writer shed tears. If you get rid of a sentence or line you hold dear, paste it into another word document to reformat for use in another story. You'd never know it belonged until you tried!

As you can see, even YOU can revise a novel. If you have any more tips or tricks, I'd love to hear them. Just leave a comment below. Oh, and don't forget to subscribe if you haven't already!

Happy writing!
Diva J.

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