Manuscript revision —

Sometimes not my favorite thing.

Sometimes I kind of enjoy it! Depends on the type of revision — huge sweeping alterations, like turning curtains into play clothes in The Sound of Music; or little fiddly detail-changes like re-hemming a pair of pants by 1/4 inch?

I once went through a huge manuscript, making the main character plump and bald. This was veeery tedious. (Do not wonder whether you have forgotten a plump, bald main character in one of my novels. That one is not yet published, though it someday will be.)

In contrast . . . I have started to get almost kinda enthusiastic about making an important revision to one of the main characters in KEEPER. So tonight I think I will go back and revise chapters 2 and 3 yet AGAIN.

Well, I’ll start that tonight. Probably finish it, eh, Thursday maybe. After that it should be less annoying to keep going with this revision because I’ll be able to actually move forward.


Found a neat post on this topic from The INTERN, first posted early this year. Here!

Friday, March 25, 2011
Special Topics in Calamity Novel Repair

INTERN has seen countless first drafts which are littered with redundant scenes—scenes that unwittingly make the same point or convey the same information over and over again without bringing anything new to the story.

… common culprits for redundancy include “getting-to-know-you” scenes, training montages, and scenes showing characters falling in love. Taken individually, any one such scene can serve an important function in your story. But when you show your characters twirling around a skating rink holding hands, then lying in a field of daisies laughing, then snuggling on a couch watching movies, and nothing is changing or moving, then you’ve got yourself some redundant scenes.
How do you recognize when your scene is critical to the story and when it’s redundant?

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. What does this scene actually DO?

(show the characters falling in love/show MC’s deepening dedication to becoming a basketball star/develop conflict between MC and her rival/etc.)

2. Do any other scenes do the same thing?

(yes/no/sort of/yeeeeees, but that scene where they lie in the daisies is just soooo sweet)

Obviously, it can take more than a single scene to fully develop a relationship or conflict. But the key word here is develop. That means in each scene, something important will have shifted. Instead of six “getting to know you” scenes, you’ll have one “getting to know you” scene, one “getting to hate you” scene, and one “getting to find out you’re my long-lost twin” scene.

Once you stop writing redundant scenes, you will be delighted to find that your novel will mysteriously develop a greater sense of tension, conflict, and forward motion. Hurrah! Calamity fixed. Well, the first one, anyway…

Yep, definitely been there. Character-has-revelation / character-has-same-revelation. One of the two has to come out! Character-visits-cousin / character-visits-cousin . . . again, cut one!

This is the sort of thing that makes it SUPER USEFUL to take a break between finishing a novel and sending it off to be read by real live other people. Taking a month or so and then coming back to a book can make redundant scenes leap out at you. I think I’m getting better at spotting the suckers when they leap and twirl and wave flags and scream DELETE ME.

When I’m working to a major deadline . . . eh. That’s where my agent becomes invaluable, because SHE’S the one who points to the flashing neon flag and suggests gently that perhaps only ONE of those scenes is strictly necessary.

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