While groping to explain the revision stage of novel writing to my facialist yesterday, I hit upon the perfect illustration. I realized that revising any type of writing can be a lot like spring cleaning. You have to make a mess to make everything all bright and shiny again. And for a while, your house is more of a disaster than it was to begin with. But eventually as you sort through things, throw things away, and put new things in order, your house looks like new again.
Revisions are similar. Right now, my novel is unreadable to anyone but me (though that's changing quickly). I've ditched scenes, added scenes, moved scenes around. I'm missing transitions, the chapter breaks went to Hades a long time ago, and several original scenes need to be rewritten to reflect changes to the plot. In other words, it looks a mess. But just like cleaning a house, you take things one stage at a time.
The first stage for me was figuring out where to add the new scenes. I grabbed my handy-dandy index cards, wrote out the scenes on them, and sat on my living room floor for an afternoon and arranged them. The next step was reorganizing the scenes in my manuscript (I used placeholders for the unwritten scenes). Then, I got down to business writing the new scenes without worrying about transitions. I just wanted to get all the key elements in place.
Now, I'm starting to revamp original scenes that have wrong, inconsistent, or repetitive information. I'm also working to harmonize scenes or bits of narrative and dialogue that have been squished together. The mess is fading and a new and improved manuscript is shining through. Eventually, I will get down to the nitty-gritty editing work. For now, it's all about cleaning up the story.
What would you liken your revisions to?
On a completely different topic, this Friday, June 18, join the Breaking the Rules Blogfest over at Elizabeth Mueller's blog. Along with other participants, I'll post writing from my past that doesn't exactly meet the standards we all aspire to. It should be fun, not to mention motivating to see how far we've all come!
Photo by josh.liba