It’s November. Authors are happily writing their novels, but few give much thought to revision, and eventual publication.
I love the enthusiasm of hundreds of thousands of authors tapping their way through NaNoWriMo. But I can’t help wondering: how many of those potentially wonderful novels will see publication?
By the time my fiction writing students join a class, they’ve often written several NaNoWriMo novels, without publishing any. That’s a shame, so we get to work, and revive those dead projects.
Here’s why we revive them: revision teaches you about salable fiction.
Revision: consider modular writing for powerful fiction
Here’s the thing. Revision can be wonderful, or it can be a gruesome chore which seems so overwhelming that many authors either:
- Don’t bother. They can’t face it; or…
- Skimp on it.
When you avoid revision completely, chances are you’ve got a mess. That mess may sell, or not. Chances are, not, because the story’s buried somewhere underneath a mass of words. Skimp on revision, and you’re not giving the novel a chance.
Revision and editing: what’s the difference?
In self-publishing today, authors conflate revision and editing. I like to separate them, so that I know exactly what’s happening, and when.
Revision is re-vision: that is, seeing again. It’s looking at the story of your novel afresh, rather than tinkering with words.
Some authors are masters of language. They perform magic with words, but if there’s nothing worthwhile behind those words, readers are disappointed… Wonderful writing; shame there’s no story. Reviewers may say: I read the preview, but I was so disappointed in the book…
Editing is structural (revision) before copyediting (words.) Structural editing is expensive, so it’s best to learn how to do it yourself. Besides, in a very real sense: you’re the only person who CAN revise your novel. No one else can see inside YOUR imagination.
It’s best if you write with an eye to revision. It makes for a better novel. Let’s look at two strategies to help with that.
1. Modular writing (in scenes) helps with revision
We’ve often talked about writing in scenes.
Aim to focus on scenes while you’re writing. When you train yourself to write in scenes, it makes revision/ editing easier.
Later, when revising, you can ask yourself useful questions about each scene:
- What’s the goal of this scene?
- Does it achieve the goal? (If not, how can I fix it, or should I remove it?);
- How can I make this scene more dramatic?
2. Edit as you go, to make full revision easier
New author beware: avoid revision while writing a first draft. You may become confused and overwhelmed.
“Editing as you go” is only possible when you write in scenes, and if you know where your novel is headed. It’s a challenge for pantsers, until you reach the 75% point of the novel.
Basically editing as you go means fixing what you can each day. When you see what there’s a problem with an earlier scene, revise, before going on.
Schedule later revision and editing while you’re writing
While coaching one student in writing a salable novel, she asked: “How can I be sure that I’ll finish this book?” Over the years, she’d started several novels and had given up on them.
My answer? “Book an editor today.”
So book your editor now. Once you’ve booked an editor, and have paid your deposit, you have an investment in your novel — and in yourself. You’ll finish the novel.
As always — have fun. 🙂
I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.More info →
How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily.More info →
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