Monday, September 14, 2015

Major Rewrites: Revising in Layers or Moving Mountains One Stone at a Time, Part 1

In the spring, I had to tackle a major revision of the second book in the One Bright Future series. To give a bit of history, I wrote the series nearly six years ago. I put the first book through countless revisions over those years. However, I did not do the same to subsequent books as I rationalized that spending that time on sequels when I couldn’t find a publisher for the first book was a waste of time.

So, after Enslavement (book one) was published, I knew I had to devote some serious attention to book two. My basic plot worked, but I needed to amp up the action and dystopian elements to match the first book. A new fear seized me—that those who read Enslavement and liked it, would be disappointed by book two. I wanted book two, not just to meet expectations, but to exceed them.

Thinking about the changes I needed to make was overwhelming and intimidating to say the least, but I’d already done this type of revision with the first book. Yes, there was some heart-pounding panic. Yes, part of me wanted to lie down and give up. Yes, I cursed myself for not doing more with the MS previously. But, I pushed this aside. It was time to get to work.

I’ve developed my own system for applying these major changes, which I’ll share with you. After writing this blog post, I realized it was far too long and detailed for a single post, so I’m going to give it to you in two installments. Next, Monday, September 21, I’ll give you the remainder.

I’ve learned that I can accomplish any task, no matter how huge, by breaking it down into smaller tasks. So, let’s get started.

1.       Brainstorming.
In this phase, I ask myself oodles of questions. What else is possible in this setting? What else could be going on with these characters? What is my antagonist’s goal, my protagonists goal? What are all the possible ways they could attempt to forward their agendas? How would all this effect my protagonist? There are no bad answers. I write them down—all of them, even the ridiculous ones, knowing some I’ll use and some I won’t.

2.       Outlining the existing MS.
This is a list of plot points, nothing elaborate. I just need to get a bird’s eye view of what I’ve already done. Because the basic plot was staying the same, I needed to be able to plug the new elements into the old.
3.       Thinning.
After taking some time to mentally explore my brainstormed options, I thin that list by removing items that are inconsistent with my world and characters, items that will take the story in an unacceptable direction, those that will not feed into the greater plot and some that I just don’t like. I'm left with the subplots and character changes that I intend to integrate into the MS.
4.       Subplotting.
I take each of the new subplots/characters and make a brief outline of what each will involve. For example, if I'm adding a new character, I jot down how they will figure into the story—where the character will meet my protagonist, how they will interact and how they will support the greater plot.

Overwhelmed yet? Don't worry. You’ll tackle one element at a time and it will all come together.

So, where do you go from here? Stop by next Monday, and I’ll tell you how I complete this process and shine up that manuscript so it’s publication ready.

Have you had to tackle rewrites and major revision? What’s your response? I’d love to hear from you.

Melinda Friesen writes short stories and novels for teens. When she's not writing, she's the marketing director at Rebelight Publishing Inc. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada with her husband, four children and five gerbils.


Leigh Caron said...

Love this process. Makes a lot of sense.

K. L. Hallam said...

This is great, thanks! I'm outlining book 2 for a book I sold a couple months ago, and just finished a huge POV rewrite. But over the years I've practiced writing anything I could, changing genres, POVs, tense, each time I set off on a new project. I think keeping flexible, helps. Good luck with your books!