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Author Topic: Can anyone recommend a good book on revision?  (Read 495 times)

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Can anyone recommend a good book on revision?
« on: February 27, 2017, 06:30:17 AM »
Anyone know any good books, guides, or other information on the art of revision?

Surely I am not the only person in this august company who struggles to devise solutions to my story's problems. More and more it seems an entirely different activity than composing a new narrative.

The good news is the bad news: I have lots of things going on, but the reaction I get from most people when I show what's waiting in the wings is "Holy crap that is a lot of stuff going on!!", so organizing things is key. My biggest issue is that I am a pantser, and I think a decent one, but I have discovered that a cloak and dagger/intrigue plot is very rigid in the cause-effect sense, which is not a place where pantsing is helpful. This is probably easy as pie for people who are good at plotting things out, but I totally suck at that. This whole exercise feels like I've been dragged from a place of strength to a land of weakness where I don't speak the language and have no map.

If anyone has any general advice, I'm interested to hear it. I've broken my narrative in half, with my causally-related events on the one hand, and the events whose order is not rigidly linked on the other, so that I can grow the intrigue plot with a freer hand. The idea is the relatively sedate sequences of learning will be intermingled with more tense situations where my hero learns about all the skullduggery going on. A delicate balance, but if it works, I think it will work really well. If it works.
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline cupiscent

Re: Can anyone recommend a good book on revision?
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2017, 08:11:30 PM »
My revision process is built on / adapted from Susan Dennard's revision advice. The core of it could be outlined as: figure out what you have; figure out / remember what you want to have; figure out how to get from here to there; do it. Sounds like you're mostly done with the first two stages, and now crunching on the third stage?

My personal view: you can pants revision, but you will probably end up having to do many revisions (if not many, many, lots). You'll save yourself a lot of time and effort if you plot hard right now. Personally, I always outline before I first draft, and I always write a completely new, often totally different outline before I revise. Because now I actually know what the story looks like, I know how the pieces need to fit together (or I'm closer, anyway). The key to this, for me, is getting the pieces together: I separate out all my scenes, give each a single-sentence summary (this is helpful in and of itself, because sometimes it shows that I've got too much or not enough going on in a scene), and then I figure out what the best order is.

When I've got multiple storylines going on - which it sounds like you do too - I also divide up the scenes into which storyline they're working with, and make sure that each has a coherent, consistent, tightly plotted line, where each scene moves that storyline forward, and leads inexorably to the next story point / scene in that storyline.

A key thing for all of this is having a clear concept of what my big story points are - the major turning points of my story / hero's emotional journey. These are what turns "stuff happening" into a novel. They are the spine of the skeleton that is plot. These are where plot structures and beat-sheets come in. In this area, I highly recommend The Short Fuse Guide to Plotting Your Novel which lays out a few big-picture plotting considerations that I haven't encountered elsewhere, such as midpoint-conclusion emotional balance, and maintaining a protag/antag pendulum. I find them a good additional layer of guidance laid over the three-act structure, or whatever other technical frame might resonate for the story you're trying to tell.

Wow, I have thrown a lot of words at this. But a couple of the other guys are probably laughing at me right now, because I word-dumped at them about revision as well. I love revision. Revision is where the novel happens. It's hard, but it's so very rewarding. :)

But if you aren't tired of words, some more other stuff to consider:
 - Rachel Aaron on Editing for people who hate editing
 - Chris Andrews on Creating a writing / editing plan
 - Glenn Strathy on Creating a plot outline in 8 steps
 - Janice Hardy on When to revise what in your novel. Janice has a "how to revise your novel" book, which I haven't used, but I have used her "How to plot your novel" book, and it was absolutely fantastic, so I imagine her revision one is great as well.

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Can anyone recommend a good book on revision?
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2017, 08:31:03 PM »
Thank you so much @cupiscent , I really appreciate both your sage advice and your many references :)
« Last Edit: February 27, 2017, 08:34:10 PM by The Gem Cutter »
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell