Revision and Editing

Having escaped my work and family for about 10 days I went to the World SF Con but first we did our 2010 Melbourne ROR where, Dirk, Richard and Maxine confirmed what I had suspected about my latest book. Luckily, I was prepared for this. (Oops, Id written a science fiction books instead of a fantasy).

We read Richard’s new book Liberator, the sequel to the highly successful Worldshaker, Maxine’s intriguing new book in which proves that obsession can lead to great writing. Who would have though Maxine had been reincarnated from a World War One Flying Ace? And then we read Dirk’s libretto, set in bedlam, staring Lord Byron and the Queen of the Faeries. Honestly, no wonder I felt like a wall flower!

Anyway, what this is leading up to is revision and editing. We call came away with suggestions to make our work better. While I was in Melbourne I was working on the first book of my new trilogy. And it was only on the day before I was due to come back that I realised I’d ended book one in the wrong place and needed to start book two earlier. This meant I had room for extra scenes in book one, and book two would have a better introduction to the characters. All of this is great, but it meant a major reshuffle of scenes and time line.

How did I know the book ended in the wrong place? I don’t know. I just did.

Editing and revision is a really tricky thing. Over at the Mad Genius Club, Sarah Hoyt did this great post on editing and revision and it got me thinking about the ROR Sunday Craft post.  When I came to research this topic there were a lot of sites offering software to help you edit your fiction. (I bet a software package couldn’t have told me my book ended in the wrong place). There are plenty of sites to advise you on how to edit your academic essay. And there are plenty of sites offering fiction editing services.

Thank goodness for Holly Lisle! Here is her One-pass Manuscript Revision article. I like the way she comes at this by first asking you to think about theme. Often discovering your theme will help you strengthen your work. When I critique work I often ask people what are your tyring to say in this story. Then Holly asks you to write down the story arc for the main character. Notice she hasn’t talked about actual editing yet. That’s because she’d helping your refine your vision for the book! (If fiction writing were as simple as an academic essay everyone could do it). And Holly has an excellent list of questions to ask yourself about each scene. All of this is really useful.

But you do reach a point where you have looked at a book so many times you can’t see it any more. That’s where I’m a great believer in – I’ll read your first-draft, if you’ll read mine.

When you don’t have a year to put your book aside and refresh your brain with other work, giving it to your critique partner to read can be a life saver. This is why we set up the ROR writing group. For those of you who are interested this is how ROR works. And this is how we critique.

The most important thing about editing and revision, is being open to changes, while keeping in mind your vision for the book. I really like editing. For me the temptation is to go on adding layers. Then I need a crit buddy to take me aside and gently tell me I’ve added too many layers.

How do you tackle editing and revision? Do you work alone? Do you have a critique partner?

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