Tonight I printed the first draft of Tangled (my novel-in-progress) in its entirety. Here it is:
This weekend, I’ll start the revision process. So, it’s timely to ask, what exactly is revision?
To quote Theodore Reese Albert Cheney’s Getting the Words Right, revision is ‘rewriting, rereading, reviewing, rethinking, rearranging, repairing, restructuring, re-evaluating, editing, tightening, sharpening, smoothing, pruning, polishing, punching up, amending, emending, altering, eliminating, transposing, expanding, condensing, connecting, cohering, unifying, perfecting, transitioning…’
That sounds like a lot of work. It’s a bit overwhelming when you think of it all in one hit like that. So I won’t be thinking of it like that. I’ll be thinking of it in the three stages Mr Cheney recommends: reduce, rearrange, reword.
Stage one: reduce
Two dozen words to remind us that we almost always write too many words,’ says Mr Cheney.
But surely all of my 174 500 words are gems! Then again, yWriter tells me that Tangled currently includes 1,100 instances of ‘just’ and 1,028 instances of ‘like’. I guess one or two of those could be culled… Maybe… 😉
To make the reduction stage more structured, Mr Cheney breaks it into several sub-stages:
• Shorten or remove whole chapters, sections and paragraphs.
• Shorten or remove superfluous, ineffective or redundant sentences and words.
• Replace longer words with shorter words.
The thought of removing whole chapters makes me feel slightly ill. All of the time, creative energy and laborious thought that’s gone into writing those pages… But, as Mr Cheney rightly argues, the only thing that counts is whether the chapter does what needs doing. Does it move the story along or delay it?
So, starting on Saturday, I will begin my editing process by re-reading the entire manuscript and seeing whether there are whole chapters, sections or paragraphs that can be removed. Out comes the chainsaw!
I’m interested to know – does this sequential approach mirror your own editing process? Or do you tackle issues in a different order, or perhaps all at once? Any tips on how to focus on the big issues (i.e. is this section necessary?) rather than the little ones (i.e. should this be ‘heavy’ or ‘weighty’?)?