The Grim Gods of Revision

Just this past week I finished out a novel project, The Children of Nemesh-Ka, that I started back in March of 2015. It was originally supposed to be one novel. But then I wrote sixty thousand words and barely got past the second bullet point of my outline, which didn’t bode well for that particular plan. The way it hashed out, essentially, was 60k during March and April of 2015 (for my 1k a Day experiment and Camp NaNoWriMo respectively), 50k from NaNoWriMo 2016, 15k from April NaNoWriMo this year, and another few odds and ends added on during intermittent periods and the first week of May this year, which wound up with… Let me consult Novlr for a moment.

The Children of Nemesh-Ka, 131,880 words, 33 chapters

Yes. Way too many words. I’m not personally a huge fan of doorstoppers, so the current plan is to dice this project up into two more manageable novels that can have room to breathe for some much-needed fleshing out.

This leaves me, as of right now, with three separate novels that are in need of editing and revision, if we include The Magician’s Ghost. Ghost is currently on my docket to be cleaned up for a second draft within the next three months. I’ll have to wedge in the revisions for the two Children novels, tentatively titled The Tiger Princess and The Devils of Lara-Keth, some time after that.

With this in mind, and having just completed what is hopefully the final draft of Love and Other Impossible Things (which I mention here not ONLY to keep its existence fresh in  your mind until its release but because it’s my most recent experience with deep-dive revision and editing), my brain is currently trying to turn over to editorial mode even as I scratch out the last bit of a novel outline I’m currently working on.

Even that outline is related to this, because it’s the result of the realization, upon beginning review of my first draft of The Black Hat Initiative, that the entire thing needed to be torn down and rewritten, setting and all.

Once the outline for that is done, and I have hashed out the final story in Love‘s followup collection, I will be turning my burning editorial gaze upon Ghost.

And this is where I make a confession: I am thirty years old, and I am virginal in the ways of revising novels.

I did not include a panel taken directly from an h-manga here. YOU'RE WELCOME.

I have attempted novel revision twice. Once was as a young whelp, a senior not even out of high school, with a steaming garbage heap of a fantasy novel that was far too long and far too cliched. This was not a true attempt at revision, however—it was really just me trying to fix the writing in the parts that sounded really bad because I’d written them as a sophomore. I had no eye towards fixing character inconsistencies, plot holes, or any of those other things that really bear considering during the revision process.

For all intents and purposes, I got to second base with that novel.

My most recent experience in editing was with the aforementioned The Black Hat Initiative. This ended very abruptly because, even though I was making notes about characterization and continuity, I realized that the whole thing was gonna have to be scrapped and rebuilt pretty quickly. It just didn’t work in the form it was in.

Let’s call that first base, because I didn’t even get as far there as I did in high school.

… Which is sort of the story of my life, really. ANYWAY

I now have the daunting task of facing down drafts of three novels that I’m actually quite pleased with, all things considered, and figuring out how to make them better.

I’ve got a list of things that need fixing in Ghost, because there are a number of things that changed midway through the draft and also several things that my writerly companions have indicated could use some massaging and emphasis. There are also regular ol’ continuity gaffes and some characterization things that need ironing out.

I expect that I shall begin by rereading the beast in its entirety. I say “beast” rather jokingly, because Ghost taps out at just over 70k, but that’s a good length for what is essentially a cozy mystery with androids and magic mixed in. This will give me a chance to take notes on what other things need to be updated or changed, brainstorm a bit on how to make those changes, etc.

Then I’ll make my first pass at it. With my notes from the reread and the observations my comrades-in-pens have provided, I’ll perform the first rewrite. SJ has been revising her novel (which is excellent, I should mention) by literally retyping the damned thing and doing cleanup as she goes, which is probably where I’m going to start. That’ll give me a feel for where I need to add the additional scenes necessary to make some of the characters more human and likeable instead of monolithic and distant and, in addition, give me a chance to do a quick polish on the words themselves as they filter on through. This is the part that I hope will be done within the next three months.

After that, I’m going to throw the draft to my ever-so-patient writer friends, who will, I’m sure, have further things to say on the subject. While they’re masticating my deathless prose (or sluicing said prose through their word-baleen, if that is their preference), I’ll step away and work on other things. Most likely polishing up Love‘s followup act to see if that can be released into the wild. Then, once I hear back from my compatriots on Ghost, I’ll be able to proceed with the second revision. Depending on the nature of the changes needed, the second revision may be primarily about tidying things up or it may be another full overhaul in the vein of the first.

It’s always my hope that the third revision is the grand finale—at that point, I can nitpick individual word choices, mumble the whole thing aloud to myself to make sure it sounds good, and finally put a lid on it and (hopefully) get the damned thing accepted by a publisher.

Which will probably result in yet another round of edits, but those are dark waters into which I dare not stray. Not until the time has come, when the twin gods Editorias and Revisionask have played the grim melody to end the world on ocarinas hewn from the bones of the damned.

SO, how about you guys? How do you approach novel revision? Any tips, tricks? Ideas for libations or live sacrifices I can offer up to the dark gods of our craft? Let me know in the comments! Because believe me, I will need all the help I can get.

2 thoughts to “The Grim Gods of Revision”

  1. omg he said my novel was good

    I mean he’s beat me about the head and shoulders with similar in the past but still, nice to get a H/T.

    I’m looking hella forward to the next draft of Ghost in particular.

    1. This is the closest I can get to yelling about your novel from the mountaintops, because clearly the beating about the head and shoulders wasn’t working. And the next draft of Ghost is coming. You know. Eventually.

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