‘Revise’ has a number of synonyms, including: improve, reconsider, update, rewrite, amend and modify. With my current novel, having finished writing it, I am doing all this and perhaps a bit more. It is a tedious process, but, to my surprise, I’m enjoying it, because, as I get closer to the end – I’m now about half way through – I’m feeling an increasing sense of pride in the output.
You may recall that in an earlier post, I said that I would print each chapter out in an unusual font and read it aloud, marking anything that jarred on my senses for later correction. I have done that, and I would recommend it for any author before submitting his/her manuscript for final editing. Before I started my reading aloud process, I had made a list of ‘lingering concerns’: issues which I felt had to be addressed. For example, I thought that I had left the characters’ feelings to much to the reader to interpret: they needed to be clearer.
So, here is what my revising process included:
- Restructuring: My draft manuscript was 16 chapters long, each about 17 pages. I thought it would be better to shorten the chapters, particularly because there is a lot that happens in the book. I’m in the process of reducing the chapter length to about 10 pages, so there will be over 25 chapters. I also wanted to have a title alluding to the content of each chapter, believing that this would add to reader interest and attention. The hard part was deciding where to separate the chapters, because previously, I didn’t worry much about that. As a compromise, I have some material which relates to the topic of a preceding or a following chapter an the beginning or the end of some chapters, but I decided that this was a better solution than having some chapters as short as 6 or 7 pages.
- Voices: Apart from the narrator, there are two other anonymous, contrarian voices. I did not want their identity to be obvious, so I have reduced their roles. But, at the same time, I wanted to reinforce the relevance of these voices to the characters, because they are part of the theme. I’ve been doing this by having the characters make oblique references to the voices.
- Characters: I have sharpened the characters so as to make their personalities more unique by having them do or say unusual things which are still in keeping with their individuality. There are also two minor characters which are too neglected in the original manuscript. As I’ve mentioned above, clarity of the character’s feelings is essential. I’ve had to add passages which define the character’s thoughts or actions which reveal feelings, or something about their body language. I’ve tried to avoid writing ‘the character felt . . .’, but I will let the narrator clarify the character’s feelings without using the word ‘feeling’.
- Theme: There is a theme based on Nietzsche which has to do with the development of the individual. I felt that this theme was well introduced but faded in the later parts. So, I’m bringing in reminders.
- Dialog: I have been told that I write good, believable dialog, but I know it can be unnecessarily long. There is a lot of pruning going on.
- Unnecessary wording: Like the previous point, I have been unmerciful in deleting text which does not contribute to the reader’s understanding.
- Time line: The story takes place over a period of about 15 years, but I sensed it was becoming difficult to keep a strict time line in order. I’m deleting all references to sequence or the passage of time, believing that these milestones tend to be a distraction for the reader.
- Consistency: I’ve found that I called a restaurant ‘Poseidon’ in the early chapters and ‘Neptune’ in later chapters. I confess to being hopeless at remembering the names of people and places. Similarly, in one chapter a terrorist organisation was called Dhul Fikar (Sword of the Prophet) and Dhul Fakir later. The first spelling is correct.
- Clichés: When one is reading aloud, clichés tend to reverberate, and they can be re-written
- Inadequate words: Similarly, an adjective or a verb or even a noun can sound and feel inadequate in best defining the character’s feeling, the situation, or the setting. Thesaurus to the rescue!
- Typos: I’ve read the original manuscript three or four times, but I’ve still found (a few) typos!