Deep Novel Revision: From Scenario to Sentence
by Dr. Laurel Yourke
Writers usually embrace or dislike revision. Those who enjoy it know that it’s an exhilarating route to delivering your initial motive for your fiction. This final stage of the writing process lets you produce a polished product that satisfies you, and, of course, agents, and then readers.
The heart of revision is “vision,” which is the subject of Beyond the First draft: Deep Novel Revision. At this late stage, you’re finally ready to fully envision the crux of your scenario. What do you want readers to see and feel?
Completing a novel is less a series of drafts with different goals than one unified process. Once you’ve figured out the basics, you enjoy a different kind of freedom: now you can elaborate, clarify, and deepen. What motivates characters to change? Is the ending plausible? Do the stakes persistently rise? Word choices must be precise and sentences sleek. The story must earn its own ending.
Revisiting your original concept prepares you to diagnose more objectively so you can revise more effectively. Structure comes first—why fiddle with word choice if the plot doesn’t work? Finally, deep knowledge of the world you’ve built helps you infuse micro-tension into every paragraph.
Readers—including agents—want all that. So how do you get it done?
* Begin by assessing your reaction to revision. Do you see it as an opportunity to carve raw material into something of jewel-like quality? Does anything in your attitude need adjusting?
* Identify and tackle structural issues first. Check character motive. Do their choices ever seem random?
* Make every scene reflect at least incremental character change. Introduce tension on every page. Yes—every page.
* Only when the foundation is rock solid should you turn to wording and sentence flow. By this time you’ll have insight into the characters’ journey. A lot of new possibilities are now open. You might be surprised by how much easier it becomes to uncover exactly the details and words you need. After all, isn’t that why you’re revising?
These opportunities spring from the “vision” inherent in revision.
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