It's June and somewhere on the planet a bunch of writers are getting their revisions on. Savvy Authors is sponsoring most of them I think, for June’s Revision Hell.
I don't have a finished novel to revise this month. What I do have is most of a draft of one. I realized I'm stronger in revision. At least I think I am. When I draft, I do it for the general movement of the story and not for detail. Descriptions? We don’t need no stinkin’ descriptions. So, what am I planning to do? Do I even have a plan?
Well, yes, thank you, I do.
I started by picking up a Kindle for PC copy of Writing for Dummies. Since I had half a novel written already, I wasn’t looking for how to set it up. What I needed was a way to re-evaluate what I had already done, why it failed, and what to do next.
The first thing I did was focus on the thee act structure and ask questions about my characters. I had changed some things about my world based on the critique I received in my workshop. Changing the world also changed what the characters did and how I presented them, but not so muchh that I had to throw them out. The biggest change was realizing that I started the story too early. Needed to start it much, much later. Much closer to the end.
This is where putting up the framework of the three-act structure is helping. Since I know where I need to get my characters, how they end up, I need to figure out here to look in their arcs for the major events that get them there.
It’s not as easy as I thought it would be. I keep writing more scenes and discovering more about the characters and the actions they take. Having the structure, though, and knowing how to question the story in that context, is helping to keep me on track. It’s giving me something to follow.
I have another element I want to try out. Will let you know how it goes next week. Meanwhile, do you have a revision strategy? How do you apply the three act structure to your own writing? Do you use it to plan the story or to shape it after you have some story to work with?
See you in Hell!
Ha! I'll be visiting "revision" hell myself in the next several days. (Taking a break for some meditation on the story thus far and line and content edits I've made to the first draft.)
When I first started my novel, I went through a lot of experimental "first" drafts. It hasn't been until the most recent one (v. 7.5, I call it) that I've actually settled down and said, "Okay, this is the combination of concept, premise, character, theme and all the other elements of storytelling that I've been looking for." (A lot of hit-and-miss and trial-and-error, heh.)
With that said...I actually didn’t put a whole lot of thought into the structure first going in. It was only on my last “first” draft that I really understood what, exactly, I wanted to happen with the structure. (Such is the way of the fledgling, organic writer, heh.) I looked at it as “this is basically what’ll happen with the exposition, the rising action (with all the various conflicts), the climax, falling action and finally the denouement.” All, ultimately, elements of the three-act structure, sure, but at the time that’s now how I viewed it. (Still don’t, to be honest, though it does make sense.)
As for my revision process, I began with printing out my final "first" draft and marking in line edits and any content changes I wanted to make for the final draft. I basically sat down and went through the whole thing with a red pen, pencil (for minor, more grammatical fixes), sometimes a highlighter and/or sticky notes to remind me to bring out certain elements more or to insert ideas in specific places. (Just finished all of this tonight, actually). Only now do I plan to go back and write all of this stuff in as well as commence any necessary chapter or scene rewrites (though I have already started some).
I've got nearly 200K words to work through and pare down where I can (it’s kind of an epic fantasy, in some ways, though less traditional), so it hasn't been easy! (Whew! Sorry if that was kind of long, heh.)
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