I was going to read the entire manuscript before jotting down my wish list of revisions, but I started skimming at page 100 and quit altogether after another hundred. I know what’s wrong with the book.
People often seem to think that revision is a matter of shopping for better adjectives, fixing comas, looking for overused words. And I guess that’s part of it. I don’t know. I’ve never had a book that close to being done. I hear about authors who go through their manuscripts once or twice, make cosmetic changes, and BANG the thing is a bestseller (people have an unerring knack for telling the most unhelpful stories). I wish that was how I rolled.
Most books are more painful.
The issue I kept seeing in my book was one of narration. I’ve never written a first-person narration, and now I think I understand why. It’s great for limiting what information gets to the reader, but pretty terrible for writers who have trouble resisting a good mental ramble. My narrator thinks too much and does too little, the minor characters dodging in and out of her mental fog like masked bandits.
Even I was bored. And confused.
And I love my characters.
All of which is why I’m going to jump on one of the oldest bandwagons in writing history and highly recommend NOT looking at your book for at least 3 months between revisions. It would be nice if we could get all the insights necessary from our friendly test readers, but the truth is that even though they see the flaws and try to communicate them, it never really sinks in. I’ve been on both sides, and I don’t mean to be talking down to either one. It’s just one of those basic rules of trying to create anything. You have to develop some pretty thick skin to deal with all the rejections and criticisms of your work (and everyone will have criticisms—even people who haven’t read your books), which is fine. Thick skin is good. It just has it’s down sides too.
We have to figure these things out for ourselves.
Which leads me right back to the dining room table and a blank sheet of paper.
How to bring out the action.
Where to take out those 30 or 40 pages.
How to let the characters speak for themselves.
How to make the actions build one on top of another. Concretely. Inevitably.
To be honest, I’m not even sure where to start with a project this big. I’m thinking to begin with a new outline and just go action by action through the plot, redividing the chapters as needed. I’m also setting the timer, because even the plan for treatment is longer than one day of work, and I’m still having to go kind of gingerly on my bad right brain.
And I might have some zombies to kill and that Bon Appetit mac’n’cheese to make.
Will let you know if it’s a good one. My hopes are ridiculously high. I desire the holy grail of mac’n’cheese, and I have bound myself to the quest. There is no turning back.