Revision as a juggling act.


I’m in the middle of a revision of my young adult fantasy manuscript, ‘The Long way Home.’ I’ve set revising, editing, and polishing this book as one of my major goals for 2010, and this particular effort was inspired by something mentioned in both of the Brian Henry workshops I’ve been to so far – that the start of your writing should be the best possible ‘hook’ that will entice the reader into continuing.

As soon as I heard that mentioned the first time, it started to occur to me that that was one of the weaknesses of the book that I hadn’t addressed in the first two revisions. ‘Long Way Home’ started as my novel for National Novel Writing Month 2007, which was a very good Nanowrimo year for me, but I suppose that any time you’re starting a new story you just have to pick a place to start writing without hemming and hawing over what the best place is, and that’s particularly true when you’re trying to write a 50-000 word book in thirty days. So ‘Long Way Home’ started off quietly, with my main character sitting outside and doing homework, (which gave me a chance to work out some of the history and politics of her world,) and really, it’s chapter 5 by the time the plot really works its way up to anything like full speed.

So, this time I’m trying to start and hit the ground running, with about a page and a half to set the scene before Princess Naveli gets captured by the rebels. A few important scenes from what had been chapters 1-4 are going to be worked in as flashbacks, and others are probably going to get left out entirely.

It’s been a fun and exasperating process all at the same time, if that’s possible. Probably not possible, come to think of it. I guess it’s been fun at one moment and exasperating the next. I’m not entirely certain if it’s working, or if I’ll be able to finish the revision in June the way I wanted to, but I guess I’ll find out in a few weeks.

The weirdest part is that rearranging things this way has turned up a few things that never really got explained properly in all of those first five chapters of exposition and world-building, and that neither I nor any of my critiquers caught so far. Guess that’s what a fresh perspective does for you.

The other thing that I’ve been working on is Naveli’s character arc. It’s supposed to be a coming-of-age story where Naveli learns confidence and self-reliance, but a couple of critiquers have pointed out that Naveli was really acting very take-charge and optimistic as soon as things started to go wrong, which means that she doesn’t really have much room to go in the direction that I want to take her. So I’ve been revising her reactions and dialog to make her much more the scared, sheltered princess right when she’s first kidnapped, which seems to fit both the character and the plot. I think that’s doing well.

So, for any writers in my reader-ship, do you have (short) stories to tell about rearranging scenes? I look forward to hearing them, or anything else you’d like to share about your revision process. Until next time.

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