ON EDITING: focused revisions
Updated: Jun 15, 2021
Ever feel like you're wandering around your manuscript, overwhelmed, not sure how to effectively transition your draft forward?
I started doing focused revisions. Like, I'd print out my pages, all over again, but this time: it's a dialogue draft. And I'd read: just for dialogue.
I'd listen to books on dialogue, compile writing notes, strategies, & exercises on dialogue, and get at polishing my manuscript.
Types of focused drafts:
Motifs, Metaphors, Fabulist threads
Style + Line Edit-y
Cut needless words
Cut repetitive words
Vary chapter openings/endings
Characterization (ex: define minor character quirks, vary description)
Strong chapter endings
Sometimes I'd combine read throughs. Like "Draft 5: motifs, repetitive words, & chapter endings." I used detailed outlines & checked off when "complete."
For more on clean-up, see ON EDITING: kill 'em, those darlings.
A Worldview draft was pivotal. I tracked my main character's worldview changes each scene, making sure she kept tracking forward. My manuscript had lots of repetition, backtracking & just this general sense of circling.
As always, I recommend Lisa Cron's STORY GENIUS. You'll learn how to keep your story focused & resonate, your characters progressing forward in a way you can articulate & define.
Here's a possible Worldview Checklist:
Define purpose of scene & specific worldview shifts.
How is she progressing? Why is she making the decisions she is making? Do her thoughts & decisions make sense?
Reread for repetitiveness. Eliminate repetition. [This is about thoughts & ideas, not style or language.]
Make sure sentences & thoughts are in order. (That her worldview progresses.)
Adira (my mc): Don't make her so roundabout & discovery with her thoughts. That's you. Have her just make conclusions. She's quick & fast & not that contemplative. Not roundabout or "wishy-washy." Not an "over-thinker."
Highlight different thought-threads. Go through. Track. Eliminate repetition & circling. (I only did this where lots happened at once.)
For an Emotion read through, I checked for use of a variety of dialogue tags, made sure my character's reactions & emotions were on the page, and made non-POV character's emotions as clear as possible. To know non-POV's emotions, I had to define every on-screen character's motivations, mood, goals. Do this. It definitely strengthens your characters when everyone comes on screen with a need & goal & purpose.
Sol Stein in STEIN ON WRITING has some of the best dialogue advice: Make sure everyone comes on screen with "different scripts." Each character should have their own unique, individual perspective. (Also makes for great conflict & tension.)
Also, just read Donald Maass' THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION: HOW TO WRITE THE STORY BENEATH THE SURFACE. It's show-stopping.
Here's an example Minor Character Checklist. I answered these questions for each character (more questions for major characters).
Definable character qualities (check that it's consistent, yet varied)
Misbelief, Truth -- arc?
Thread through arc, if relevant
How impact/highlight Adira’s worldview/journey?
How impact theme?
Conflict with Adira? Conflict with other characters?
Other random stuff: define location
I realized that I had the habit of just, you know, dropping my character somewhere new and NOT TELLING THE READER. This is why beta's are so great. They can point out glaring habits you have no idea you do. So I made sure each time my characters changed location, I said it. Clearly. Not with some metaphor. Just: And now they were outside the f-ing cave.
What about you? Do you have any quirks you check as you revise? Please share & not leave me over here hiding beneath my cardigan.
Well, happy editing. Hope you're having a beautiful day, whether it's sunny or rainy or blustery or snowy. Maybe stand outside a few moments & do some sun salutations? Or grab a fresh cup of brew. Then: get at editing.
Hope you have some fun.
Books to Read: