Monday, March 21, 2011

It's Only Possible During Revisions

Revisions can be hard, but they are so worth it. Some parts of a story only emerge once that first draft is laid out, after the basic structure is there to work from. Even though I try to make my early drafts as complete as possible, like magic, some parts of the story only happen if the conditions are right. Here are a couple of the things that I can only do during revision:

Make Connections Inside the Story.  It's so cool when I realize that a bit of the story at the beginning can be tweaked slightly to set up an event later in the story. It makes it feel like all the pieces are coming together. Like it's a real novel, rather than just a tangled mess of words trying to be one.

For example, in one scene, I had two girls talking and one was trying to find out some information from my main character. But I realized my main character could also be trying to find out something she needs to know. Revealing a tidbit of the information for my MC here paved the way for the later scene where she finds out more, and made that "girls talking" scene so much stronger.

I know I couldn't make connections like this without having reached the end of the story. I have to know what the pieces are first and which pieces turn out to be important. They aren't always the ones I've noted as important in my outline.

Cut Out Some of the Drama. I've heard so often that you need pile on the obstacles for your character, so that they face one challenge after another to make it almost impossible to reach their goal. I do this naturally when I'm writing. But three obstacles in one chapter? It makes my head spin! Sometimes, it's just artificial drama that I include because I think it will keep the reader hooked. In revisions, I cut down on the drama and increase the tension at the same time by finding the obstacle that affects my character the most emotionally. It doesn't always look as dramatic, but it tugs at the reader's emotions.

What aspects of writing do you find are only possible during revision?

Don't forget to check out the MiG Writers contest to celebrate Debbie Ohi's big news....enter by March 26th.


  1. This is exactly what I love about revision. Once the rough draft is complete, I enjoy going back and adding the little scenes and ideas that make getting to the end even better because I have the whole picture to work with.

  2. I'm similar to you. Some scenes can only be rewritten for their fullest impact after the first draft been written and I know for sure what is going to happen!

  3. I saw your comment on Elana's blog, so I thought I would stop by to follow yours.

    Nice ta meet ya!

  4. "like magic, some parts of the story only happen if the conditions are right." -> I love that! And so true!

  5. Catherine, I love adding details that help to strengthen the story.

    Laura, you make a good point about writing for the fullest impact. I like that phrase.

    Matthew, glad you stopped by! It's nice to meet you too.

    Christina, too bad that magic is sometimes unpredictable! But that's the fun of writing, too.

  6. This is so true--some elements and realizations just show up during revisions and make the manuscript that much stronger. Love the example from your project (the conversation between two girls)--it's those little clues that really strengthen a book!

  7. This is SUCH a helpful post - I do the first (in fact I even found myself somehow doing it subconsciously in the first draft before I even really knew what i had planned - weird) but the second part is precisely what I need to do - thank you!


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