If this post had a point I’d state it here. It doesn’t. It’s just me ranting about the revision I’m working on. But don’t worry, I love revising.
If you’ve been following the saga of my revision (on my blog, in my monthly updates, on Twitter, or through a psychic connection) you’ll know I shared my sixth draft with my wonderful critique partner, Anna Kaling.
She gave me great suggestions about how I could cut length (my draft is 156k and I want it down to 120k) and make the story more compelling.
This was the first time I’d shared a complete(ish) novel of mine with anyone. It was scary and thrilling.
Since getting Anna’s feedback I’ve been through a number of stages.
Stage 1: OMG, someone read my story!
This was a headless chicken kind of excitement.
Because of the joy of time zone differences, I got a long email of detailed comments first thing in the morning just before I had to work all day.
I read them quickly and thought, “Yes! She’s right! These changes will make my story so much better.”
Stage 2: There’s so much to do!
Half an hour later I entered a stage of freaking out.
“I’ve already been writing this book for a year and a half. Now I have to rewrite the first half from the ground up? It’ll be so much work and nothing will fit back together afterwards.”
Stage 3: I’m going to make a plan!
I love planning and lists. By the time I got home from work I was ready to start spewing my ideas onto paper and turning them into a to do list for my next round of editing.
So many ideas…
Stage 4: How does all this fit with the existing draft?
I told myself I was not going to keep any scenes just because I liked them. They’re only going to stay in the story if they belong there.
I mean it.
A scene isn’t beautiful in isolation. (Okay, it can be, but that ruins my point.) It’s beautiful because of the way it works with the rest of the story. Its meaning comes from its interaction with the whole.
I realised if I was going to figure out how to fit the new into the old and excise the parts that didn’t belong I would need to lay out what I had.
So I made index cards! Look how pretty and parallel they are, just like my bacon.
Summarising each scene and making the cards took three days.
My next problem was where to lay them out where I could see them all at once. The living room isn’t the ideal place, but that’s where the log burner is and the weather is really cold at the moment. Face it, I was never going to put them anywhere else.
I only had room to lay out acts 1 and 2. That’s fine. Act 3 needs less revising.
I’m glad I put so much effort into this. All my beautifully arranged cards have given His Royal Fluffiness a perfect place to sit and lick himself. They’re no longer as straight as they were. They also have more cat fur on them.
Unfortunately, they haven’t been especially helpful so far, though the exercise of making them was (or so I tell myself).
Stage 5: Maybe I should start by looking at what needs to be there
After several days of looking at my cards, I decided to start by building up a list of what needs to be in the story regardless of what’s already there. Then I could compare it with the contents of my current draft and see how to reconcile them.
I listed the threads that run through the middle of the book. There are fifteen. No, they’re not mostly separate points of view, but they are distinct story threads.
No wonder my books end up so long.
When it came time to firm up how all the threads fit together and interact…
Chaos and hand-wringing.
Stage 6: Enter Aeon Timeline 2
Stumbling in the dark, I heard about a program called Aeon Timeline 2 and figured it was worth a try.
I’ve only been using it for a few days so this is not a review, but so far it seems promising.
In case you’ve never heard of it, let me give you the dragon’s-eye view.
It’s a computer program (for Mac or PC) designed to help organise timelines, as you might guess from the name.
I’ve hardly scratched the surface of its functionality, but what I have figured out is helping tremendously.
You enter events into it that happen at certain dates. Dates can be absolute (e.g. 3 May 1525) or relative (e.g. 5 days after George eloped with a heifer). Each event can be attributed to one or more story arcs (e.g. antagonist’s quest to steal the magic egg cup), tagged with the characters involved, and attached to its location.
Once you’ve entered your events you can shift when they happen by dragging them on the timeline (which also moves all the events that are defined relative to them).
You can view all your events chronologically, or view them grouped by arc, character, or location.
This is a great tool for ensuring the duke doesn’t execute a prisoner in the ward of his castle while he’s a hundred miles away.
Aeon Timeline 2 is the reason I know that two events that were supposed to occur simultaneously in fact occurred four months apart. Oops. It looks like I have more work to do.
(I would have included a screenshot, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it without giving spoilers for my story. Sorry.)
Stage 7: Can I start adding and deleting scenes yet?
Despite the help of Aeon Timeline, I’m not ready to touch the draft yet.
But I REALLY want to.
Can’t I? Please? Just a little bit?
I’m sure the solutions to all my unanswered questions will become perfectly clear as soon as I get my hands on the text. It’s so much easier to see a whole story in a 156k word draft than in a few pages of summary.
Thanks for listening to my rant. Do you love revising or hate it? Would you like to share your own rant?
Get more from me, and it’s mostly not about writing… Unless you want it to be about writing, in which case it is about writing.