Revisions: Cleanup on Aisle Three
Right now I’m revising my novel. I’ve been revising for quite a few months now; at this point I’ve spent more time revising than I did writing the first draft. But what am I doing, exactly?
Well, when I’m revising the first thing I’m looking to cut is anything that doesn’t forward the plot, flesh out the characters, or reveal the world.
An adequate scene does at least one of these; the best scenes do all three at once, and the more of these triple-threat scenes I can pack into the story, the better.
The second thing I’m looking for is balance.
For some people, that might mean deleting pages upon pages of descriptive exposition, leaving only a few paragraphs behind. Personally I never describe enough on my first go round (and routinely get zinged in critique for it), so during revisions I usually have to add in more exposition to help flesh out my world. My own great overindulgence happens to be dialogue, so when I revise I hunt for great globs of banter that I can hack down to the essentials.
The third thing I am looking for are hanging threads that need to be tied up.
Maybe that means a minor character who said “I’ll be right back” and was never seen again. Maybe that means I had a great idea while writing Chapter Twenty-six that needs to be seeded back in Chapter Three if it’s going to work correctly. Maybe I got sidetracked with the B-Plot for a few chapters and neglected to remind the reader what was happening with the main storyline. *ahem*whatI’mtryingtofixrightnow*ahem*
Basically, when I revise I’m trying to terraform the jungle of my first draft. Hack back unnecessary and intrusive undergrowth. Smooth out the bumpy ground. Build bridges across cliffs.