Revision Experiment: Completed

Long ago (in a galaxy far, far away?  Nah, right here), I started a revision experiment on A Paranormal Bromance.  It was quite an endeavor, and I actually got overwhelmed by the project and by life last year and took one full year off from working on it.

I wrote aPB during 2012 National Novel Writing Month in a flurry of words (about 75K of them, in fact) in the month of November.  When I finished, I thought that maybe I had more revising to do than ever.  The three main problems I saw were: 1) The early-middle scenes in school and during the first dates with the love interest seemed poorly written, and quite possibly, there were too many of them.  2) I had this sense that I had written both of my POV characters–teenage boys–with the same voice.  3) Related to #2, my ghost character seemed to have a maturity problem; sometimes he acted like a child, which made the times he acted like a big brother seem out of place.  Maturing his voice would help a little with this, to remind us that, in many ways, he is more mature than the human character, even while he’s goofing off.

Usually when I edit, I handle all the big problems in the document in Word (or whichever word processor), then print out a copy and go to town on it with pens, each pass receiving a different color (like pink or green or purple.  None of this red pen stuff).  I make the corrections, do some more on-screen stuff, and move on to betas.  But I know that I would not have been able to have the attention to the language I needed if I worked with a pen on printed pages.  I’m great at picking up on tightening, and from time to time I’ll improve every sentence, it seems, in a certain scene or for a few pages.  It might depend on the day or the scene.  Certain scenes can distract me with emotions or excitement, and then I’m not picking apart language use there.  I needed to pay attention to every sentence and every paragraph.  I also needed to feel free to rewrite entire scenes from scratch, I felt.  So I decided to do this one differently.

The plan was to send the “NaNo version” of aPB to my Kindle.  There I would keep the original on screen to refer to while I rewrote the novel in a notebook, using two different colored pens, one for each POV so I always would be aware of whose voice I should be using.  Writing by hand would force me to take even more time on each word and sentence because I can’t transcribe as mindlessly by hand as I can while typing.  Separating the original from the next version, I thought, would also free me up to add stuff where needed or to write a scene from scratch when I felt that the original didn’t work but was necessary in some form.

I started the revision in January or February of 2013.  I got through 20% of the original novel (less of the next version because of cuts) before two things happened.  I approached the first scene I thought I would have to rewrite and I grew intimidated, and I started working to sell my house, which took a lot of time away that I used to spend on writing.  So aPB fell by the wayside.  I picked it back up on March 1, 2014, and two days later came across an editing challenge, where I decided I would tackle the rest of the rewrite.  I finished that process today.

Here are my observations about this process:

  • Success: This allowed me to seriously focus on language. Blake’s language was simplified (maybe too much) and Ren’s was matured. There were times when I was transcribing what was already written just as I wrote it, but I looked at each word, each sentence, and each paragraph and reexamined whether there was a better way to say or describe anything.
  • Success: I was better able to recognize those places where I ramble because a) I over-explain things and b) it’s NaNo and, yay, words. Or where I think it’ll be clever to make this comment here, not realizing that it’s killing the action. Yep, there were some definite darlings killed.
  • Success: It made me really free to cut out full scenes and rewrite necessary conversations somewhere else. But, I have had success in that without this method
  • Failure: I expected to feel more free to add stuff to the book, but I didn’t. I often had to go back to an earlier part and leave a note to remind myself to add stuff in the next round.
  • Failure: At some point I planned to get off the Kindle and write scenes from scratch. But I never was able to truly depart from the original, except for the half a scene I had to add from scratch to replace a chapter I killed.

Overall: Wow, that was a lot of time, effort, paper, and ink. It took two entire blue pens (I bought these pens when I started the revision), the better part of a letter-sized notebook and 2/3 of my new notebook (though I only wrote on one side of the new one because the paper was thin). It took a lot longer than my usual editing method, and I’m pretty sure that if I had been doing it the usual way, I would have finished it last year even with the craziness that took over my life.

I don’t know if I’ll ever use this method again.  It was definitely worth it for this book because it forced me to be consistent in each POV’s language use, but for the big rewrites, it didn’t do anything.  I might even have been too scared to deviate that far from the original with this method.  However, I removed a lot of stuff I was unhappy with, and that made the scenes I planned to rewrite a lot more tolerable, and hopefully, so did what I did revise within them.

Next step is to type it up, but I don’t know when I’ll get to it, considering Camp NaNo is coming and I have TWO books bursting to be written.  I guess that’s what you get for taking a year off!

Lots of love,
Sage

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