Making a big mess bigger: the revision process

Well, the revision of my first novel draft, The Bended Tree, is underway. Even though I’d given it a read-through in early January, I didn’t take notes or mark the manuscript in any way. So based on the pointers from a very good, newly released book called Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell, I sat down and reread my manuscript this week, taking notes and jotting down any thoughts, as well as making some markings in the story so I could cut or revise later.

Let me start by saying this draft is worse than I remembered. It’s really bad. I have a good story concept, with a few well-written scenes. But it’s laden with exposition, and it “tells” much more than it shows. In fact, I had to stop reading at one point the story was annoying me so much.

However, the book by Bell has encouraged me so much, that I’m going to keep at this draft. Bell has given me tools I desperately needed, like how to rethink characters, how to create more tension and how to keep the plot moving (or slow it down, as I need to do). He also recommends asking yourself how you can write a scene or character “crazier” than you might first think to do. You might pull it back in a later revision, but you also may find something there that’s worth keeping.

I feel a little overwhelmed by this process, but I have a plan and I am moving forward. And instead of looking at this novel as something that will be published one day, I am looking at it as a pile of pig slop for me to dig through and make a big mess.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Natasha
    Feb 14, 2010 @ 21:35:00

    Sounds like a recommendation for the the Bell book.

    Honestly, I think the whole PROCESS that we’ve gone thru with NaNo and whatever continuing writing/revision we do is so important that the finished (or semi-finished, whatever) PRODUCT is almost irrelevant.

    Of course, it would be fabulous if our current manuscripts were picked up by Random House, but if not, think of all we’re learning and can use in the next manuscript.



    • kathanink
      Feb 15, 2010 @ 15:55:20

      I think it’s one of the best (try only) books that tackles the revision process assuming you’ve written a mss already. Most of other books I looked at were more from the “prep, organize, outlike, prewrite” perspective. I didn’t do any of that, so I needed major help with fixing what I already wrote. It’s hard to find those books!


  2. Parrot Writes
    Feb 14, 2010 @ 18:23:37

    Does Mr Scott’s book tell you when to STOP revising? I can’t seem to quit…


    • kathanink
      Feb 15, 2010 @ 15:52:48

      LOL – Actually, sort of he does, because he has a fairly methodical process for doing it, so when you’ve done what he suggests in the order he suggests it, you should have at least a better story. That’s the plan anyway! 🙂


  3. darksculptures
    Feb 14, 2010 @ 14:05:39

    I like your attitude about revision and drafting. You can’t be afraid of it – you have to be willing to dive in head first and mix the ingredients around until the batter is ready to pour in the pan. Keep at it!


  4. dayner
    Feb 14, 2010 @ 01:03:47

    I’m so happy you’re not giving up on it. Your pig slop comment made me laugh. But I’m sure it’s not that bad. I still haven’t picked up my nano story yet. I bet it needs some serious work too. Oh hum…we’ll work through it slowly and when we’re all done, hopefully we’ll all have something we’re happy with.
    I need to go get that James Scott Bell book. I’m trying again to get through ‘The Scene Book’ by Sandra Scofield. I think that’s where I need to most work, my scenes.


    • kathanink
      Feb 15, 2010 @ 15:50:56

      No really, it is that bad. I finally finished the reread, and while I found a few scenes I liked, they were disjointed from the plot and…ugh.

      Yes, I recommend the Bell book…it’s one of maybe two books that helps you revise something you already wrote (most of the other books tackle the prewriting, and prep…he assumes you’ve done none of that and your trying to revise a stinky mss).


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