This is some fascinating stuff. I’ve now gone through ALL the comments, questions, and problems folks describe having with revising their novels, and I’ve sorted out 146 unique issues that ARE revison-related and revision-critical, and 7 that aren’t.
Let me get the 7 “These Are Not Revision Problems” issues out of the way first.
2) Getting motivated to do the revision.
3) Staying motivated all the way to the end of the revision.
4) Grammar and spelling mistakes. (BUT NOT STYLE)
5) Revising while writing first draft.
6) “Giving myself time to write in the first place.”
7) “Not finishing what I start.”
Number 4 is a matter of getting a grasp on basic elements of the language. How To Revise Your Novel is the equivalent of renovating a house. Grammar and spelling are “How to Hold Your Hammer.” If you do not understand basic grammar (what is a predicate, what is a participle, what is a preposition, what is “person”, what is “number,” what is “tense,” etc.) get a copy of The Basic Glossary of Grammar, take a month, and do the whole course. It’ll set you back less than five bucks, and when you’re done you’ll know what you need to know to write fiction competently.
Grammar IS NOT style. We’ll be dealing heavily with style in How To Revise Your Novel. But grammar is to style what “how to hold a hammer” is to “how to dovetail joints and do seamless inlay on a parquet floor.”
As for spelling, there are a number of resources for adults. I’ve found three that look pretty good. Spelling It Right is free. Sequential Spelling for Adults is $14.95. And Personal Best Spelling runs $9.95-$60 AU depending on the way you decide to buy the program (printable page [no software], downloadable software or disc).
And 5 and 7—Revising while writing first draft, and not finishing work, are first-draft process problems, NOT revision problems. (Sometimes 7 can be a motivation problem, too. Generally, though, it’s process.) I deal with these two problems in How To Think Sideways, and will not be addressing them a second time in How To Revise Your Novel.
Why won’t I be hitting those seven problems in HTRYN?
Because not only will I be covering my complete start-to-finish in-depth revision process, but I’ll be demonstrating how to fix all 146 specific problems fought with by people struggling with revising their novels.
And here’s where it gets really fascinating.
There are three main stages of doing a successful novel revision.
The first stage is triage—the equivalent of checking the patient who enters the emergency room and going in order through the basic list of “Is his airway open? Okay, then is he breathing? All right, is his heart beating? Now…is all his blood staying in this body?…” and so on down a list.
Revising a novel has a similar triage process, and the majority of questions asked by writers indicates that most writers have no clue this stage of revision even exists, much less that it goes first.
That’s where we’re going to start. Triaging your novel.
The second main stage of revision is the equivalent of diagnosis and treatment. You’ve dealt with the major trauma, your patient is breathing (or at least you have a ventilator hooked up and you’re moving air in and out for him), he isn’t bleeding anymore, and now you have to figure out what’s going wrong in there and how to fix it.
Folks had LOTS of questions about the diagnosis and treatment stage, and those are what we’ll do second.
And then you have stage three—the equivalent of the cosmetic surgery stage. This is where you have your patient up and walking, breathing, not hemorrhaging, not suffering from pneumonia, broken bones all healed up, and she decides before she goes out into the world she wants a pert little nose and bigger boobs. Spiffy. We’ll do all that in stage three.
But going through all those many questions, something amazing became very clear to me.
The majority of folks are getting frustrated and desperate and miserable with their revisions because they’re trying to do a nose job on a patient who isn’t breathing and who is bleeding out—and they can’t figure out why the nose job isn’t helping.
And this is actually very cool, because if this is what’s going wrong for you, I can show you how to fix it.
I’ve now written most of the first lesson, have outlined the next six (the triage stage stuff), and am organizing all the “diagnosis and treatment” and “cosmetic surgery” info into a cohesive plan of attack.
The objective here is to have you attack and solve each problem you find only once, while not causing yourself other problems that you’ll then have to go back and fix, which then mess up fixes you’ve already done.
Odds are, if you’ve revised or started to revise your novel, you’ve experienced this problem. God knows, I did. I learned how NOT to do this, and I’ll make sure I show you how to avoid making things worse while trying to make them better.
Hence the cohesive plan.
There is no way I can cover everything you need and have asked in three months. However, I think I can get it in four.
I’m feverishly outlining the rest of the course, and when I have that done, I’ll select my two
guinea pigs, er… victims, no, not right either… ah, test students, and the three of us will get started.
I’ll be putting the course together, and two of you will be asking questions, revising your books, having me go over your revisions with comments and questions, and making sure this process works for you and you come out of it understanding WHY as much as you know how..
And once I have about half the course finished and have a good idea of the time it’ll take the three of us to go through the rest, I’ll open the doors to everyone else. The initial class may be able to start in late November or early December—and I’ll plan the official opening for January.
So. That’s the plan and how it’s going. Any comments or questions?