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Largest Changes you've made in Revision

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Netardapope, Sep 9, 2017.

  1. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

    Hello Scribes, before I ask this question, I'd like to give some context.

    I'm nearing the end of the Second Act in a novel that became a Million times larger than I intended it to be. Now, let me get some assumptions you might have out of the way. No, I'm not falling out of love with the story. Nor am I becoming burnt out. Rather I'm a tad scared.

    I enjoy this story. It is near and dear to my heart. However, with the scale it's taken on, I've run into the occasional contradiction, plothole, and abandoned subplots/characters. I've handled them decently enough in my opinion, in the perspective of creating temporary solutions for finishing my first draft. However, it goes without saying that MASSIVE structural changes will have to be dealt with once I am done.

    So, I would like to hear about your experiences with revision. In particular, I'm interested in hearing about the largest-scale changes you've had to make to a story during the revision process. I'd like to measure some of the things I'll probably end up doing in my revision to the trials that you guys have already gone through. Just to make sure that I'm not exagerrating the extent of my issues.

    Also, I'd like opinions on the following writing advice: "Anything can be fixed in revision."

    I feel that sometimes writers give advice that is rather easy, and forgiving, if only for the sympathy they share for fellow writers. Now, I'm not saying what I personally think about the example provided, however, I see merits to both potential sides of an argument regarding it. I would just like to hear your opinions.
  2. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    In my last novel, I threw away the whole second half and rewrote it because it sucked and I knew I could do better.

    In my current novel, I didn't necessarily throw out the whole second half, but I'm doing extensive rejiggering of plot, making additions, subtractions, and making things make more sense.

    Having to do extensive edits to the second half of my last two books is making me begin to wonder if that's just the way I role. It can be stressful at times, but for me, the end results and the emerging results make me think it's worth it.
    Netardapope likes this.
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Many writers, experienced writers, tell of completely re-vamping a novel, even to the point of abandoning it for years then resurrecting it in an entirely new form. Complete rewrite. I guess that would be most extreme. And everything in between.

    As for the advice, it's too facile. At some point, revision becomes writing a-new, so is that really fixing in a revision? I think the advice focuses on the wrong step. The real advice should be: don't get so bogged down in your first draft that you never finish it.

    And "bogged down" can certainly mean feeling that there is so much to revise, you lose heart. Not saying that's the case here, only that facing a major revision can be overwhelming. IMO, this is another place where it is invaluable to have a good editor. That person can take you through the process, offering both encouragement and guidance. Much tougher to do this on one's own.
    Netardapope likes this.
  4. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

    Kind of funny, that is distressingly similar to what I think I'll end up doing. I dunno if it's just me, but I feel the Second Draft is often the den of most writing issues.

    Sent from my SM-J700M using Tapatalk
  5. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

    I guess deep down, when the prospect of having a rewite a major portion of story seems inevitable, my gut tells me that it is unfixable. Structural issues make me feel like I messed something up big time with my novel, unlike plotholes, which can be relatively easy to fix on their own.

    The editor seems interesting, actually. A fresh pair of eyes can go a long way for our kind. It's too easy to be mired in our own personal disdain/pride for our work when viewing it only from our lens.

    Some of my best scenes were often those I hated while writing and loved when I returned.

    Maybe some of the crappy subplots I want to revise could end up being genius!

    Sent from my SM-J700M using Tapatalk
  6. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    For me, that would be 'Labyrinth: Journal,' written without an outline about seven or eight years ago. The revision for that involved ditching a lot of pointless fighting, changing one character from male to female, and dropping another character altogether. About 10% of the material at the back of the book got moved to the front - 'telling' rather than 'showing.' Some got moved to the sequel. Plus, I wrote four chapters from scratch to properly start the story, and added a proper conclusion instead of a stopping point.
    Netardapope likes this.
  7. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    My biggest "revisions" haven't been so much revision as just the axe taken to POVs. Dropped 25k in a whiz-bang that way, LOL.

    When I was getting close to the end of draft #1 chopped a POV and kicked one back to book 2, knowing they would take me too long in word count, and trimmed text like madman, and so v1.1 when finished was at 123k. Then after betas and an editor, it ballooned to 153k, way over what I expected. So, I dropped another (important but not vital) POV to knock of 10k+.

    Now, hardest work but not necessarily the "biggest" is going through and picking at every paragraph, sentence, and phrase. Against all expectations of me and my editor, I was able to knock off another 16k words, and I'm a pretty tight writer to begin with when compared to most epic writers. I'd knock off 50 words from a 2k word chapter, then 300 from another... watching for every tiny redundancy and unnecessary... whatever. And in the end I'm back in the 127k range, which makes feel a lot better about sending it out queries to agents. Now, if I get signed I'll fight for that 10k POV, LOL. She isn't 100% needed, but it's better with.
    Netardapope likes this.
  8. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    I'm currently about 30% through a 3rd revision, the 2nd never being fully completed because of a massive change of storylines and characters.

    The 1st draft came in at a bit over 70k. After completing the initial draft, I realized I had some big issues, the biggest of which was that 90% the story was one big flashback, and because there was no present feel to it, the urgency just wasn't there. Now, that worked fine in the short story version that started the whole thing off, but it didn't work for the novelized version.

    I also saw some good in that first draft, so I sat down and took the best of that 70k (about 10-15%) and drew up a story-within-a-story framework. In about 4 months of brainstorming, sketching, & outlining I had a complete new set of characters, going through events that have greater urgency because they're not in flashback. That 15% of the original draft now serves as a flashback that is parceled out, bit by bit, as the main body of the story continues with both story lines slowly merging.

    I think it works a lot better, and I wasn't even a bit sad to throw away the majority of the first draft. Primarily, that's because I know the story is better for it. Secondarily, that 1st draft allowed me to know the story I needed to tell and how it needed to be told. I also grew to know the characters within the 15% that I kept much better.
    Netardapope likes this.
  9. Well, my first book got rewritten completely, and so completely that it was basically a whole other story sharing a few characters and concept elements.

    My current WIP is getting rewritten completely. Totally gutted, much of the middle reworked, no idea at all about the ending.

    And can anything be fixed in revision? Depends on what you count as revision. If rewriting the whole story is revision, and not a new story...yes, i guess.
    Netardapope likes this.
  10. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

    I'm currently doing the same with my first book. The book I'm writing at the moment is a remake of the first story I finished, with a plot so different, it might as well be another book.

    Rewriting whole books seems more common than I thought.

    Sent from my SM-J700M using Tapatalk
  11. I must say, though, that when going over my first draft of the current WIP, i had no idea how to fix it. Or even begin to fix it. It was a huge mess and it petrified me.

    However, I was soon able to work out the knots, one at a time, and it wasn't so bad after all.

    Ugly first drafts are not as scary as they look.
  12. Malik

    Malik Auror

    I've told this story on here a lot, but I did a massive revision and eventual series of rewrites, making my hero into my villain and vice versa. It finally hit me that the real story was about the then-villain's redemption and not about the then-hero's adventures as a Lost Prince(TM) who Discovers that He can Do Magic(TM) and Comes of Age in a Magical World(TM).

    Hey, it was my first novel. I thought it was groundbreaking.

    I still have a few original versions with the now-villain as the hero; it needs a complete rework, but it will be a prologue and origin story once the rest of the series is out.
  13. cjthibeaux

    cjthibeaux Acolyte

    I did the unthinkable. I re-wrote the MC. It meant a major change in the flow of the story but was also the best lesson learned. Granted I will probably not do that again, but I made me really re-evaluate all the other characters.
    I found it best to put it away for a while then come back to it.

    Ask yourself, are the changes serving the character arc?
    I had to chop off a lot of scenes that I loved. Kill your babies. As much as I loved them, they did not serve the story in the whole and was more fluff than expedient. Will your story colapse without them? Or are they set ups for a scene down the line.

    Every scene has to lead somewhere if not they could be a distraction from your storyline.
    Even fluff scenes must be a set up. They must give information to the reader that is vital to the finale scene, or rhaps mislead the reader on purpose.

    I'm still learning how to be better at it but ask yourself the hard questions. It's worth it.
    Good Luck.

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