It’s interesting that this month’s Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour topic is about revisions. I just finished a monster revision / writing project in August. Excellent timing!
Back in 2005 I wrote a novel called Broken Trails about two women who come together during the Last Great Race – the Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska. (Actually, the novel was untitled and remained so until about a year ago.) I love the Iditarod, and read everything I could get my hands on about it. Others enjoyed the online version, and I received a great deal of praising emails.
But not from everybody.
In my desire to immerse myself in the snow and the mountains and the dogs, I failed to consider one important factor — my main characters. Several of my more insightful critics and friends pointed out that neither character grew much during the novel. Sure, it was very scenic, and the action was good, it almost felt like the reader was on the sleds with Lainey and Scotch as they mushed on toward Nome. But the characters were the same at the beginning as they were at the end.
Four years later, I decided to revise the online version of Broken Trails. I’d just picked up a cool Mac program called Scrivener, and was eager to give it a go. In order to do this, I broke the entire manuscript down into scenes and each scene given its own document in the manuscript folder. Each scene was then color coded by who was involved – Lainey, Scotch, and the race. (Yes, the race became it’s own character.) That’s when I realized that I’d put a lot of effort into Lainey’s point of view, but had seriously neglected Scotch’s. I added more scenes.
Then I broke my characters.
I needed them to be broken so that they could use each other to shore up their weak points. A good, healthy love is wonderful in reality, but sucks in a romance novel. No angst! Originally, Lainey was a recovering alcoholic; I made her no longer recovering. (And I’m not telling how Scotch was broken. You’ll just have to buy the book when it comes out!)
Scene by scene, I scanned the manuscript, making changes as I went. It was as labor intensive as the original writing, lemme tell ya. In fact, it was actually more like work than the original writing had been! Still, it was worth the effort. The characters came alive and their love deepened in a manner that I hadn’t been able to originally pull off.
Revision ain’t fun. It takes serious sweat and the ability to swallow your pride. (My immediate response to my first readers was denial. I even attempted to argue my point with one of them before I shut up to stew on my own.) But it’s a necessary function of the job. I’ve been through professional edits on six manuscripts to date, and every one of them had their heartbreaks. Such is the writing life. Without revision, none of us would ever be exposed to excellent writing.
Revision isn’t a dirty word.
Today’s post was inspired by this month’s topic on the Merry-go-Round Blog Tour, an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers, and find out what’s on their nightstands, check out the rest of the tour! On the 11th, the entry was by D. Anthony Brown. Tomorrow, see what David Bridger has to say on the matter! Happy reading!
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