- Books for writers
- FAQ: I’m a new writer: which book should I read first?
- FREE Nail Your Novel Instant Fix: 100 Tips For Fascinating Characters
- My writing process: the picture tour
- Nail Your Novel: A Companion Workbook
- Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and how you can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence
- Reviews of Nail Your Novel
- Who’s tweeting about Nail Your Novel …
- Writing Characters Who’ll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel
- Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart: Nail Your Novel
- Email me
Posts Tagged revisions
It’s a writer’s prerogative to change their mind. All the time. It’s called revision. We’re steering the story one way, then a stronger idea comes along, or a development proves impossible, or an editor or beta reader persuades us to do something else instead.
As we cut, add and rearrange, our drafts build up unwanted junk. Here are three ways this might be tripping the reader up.
Plot and character
So we’ve changed our mind about where we’re pushing a character or a plot strand. We may have tidying to do.
When movies do this – particularly if they have to recut after shooting is finished – they have to patch the scenes they’ve already got. Inevitably we’ll see characters worrying about stuff that looks important but goes nowhere – often to irritating effect. But writers can edit in infinite detail. Are your characters making an issue of things that now don’t matter?
Quite often a theme won’t become apparent until we’ve wrangled the book through many drafts, but that doesn’t stop us stabbing in the dark to find it. Language, imagery, dialogue and setting will all reflect what we think the themes are. If we’ve had a few reorientations we might end up with theme schizophrenia. Although that can add up to a rich book, it could also make unholy muddle. Look for echoes of earlier themes when you revise – and decide if you still need them.
A town’s streets show the traces of its history. A road might be crescent-shaped because of a building that disappeared centuries ago. The town is stuck with that – but does your novel have story structures that are more fiddly than they need to be? Do your characters serpentine through the plot because they’re navigating vanished landmarks?
Novel-writing isn’t a science. Our story’s evolutionary dead ends might be like junk DNA – a sequence of instructions that seems to say: ‘grow wings, no don’t grow wings, it’s not a bird any more’. Once thought to be useless to a modern human being, junk DNA is now believed to be important – though what it does is still opaque and mysterious.
By serendipity, your novel’s junk DNA might enrich the themes, or provide quirky, unexpected contrast and relief. (Readers are generous and tend to think you have placed every word deliberately. They don’t know how much irrelevant rubbish passes through a book as well.)
Clutter and clarity
So maybe junk isn’t all bad. Sometimes it’s treasure. Other times, though, it can confuse the reader and clutter the story. Your manuscript will be leaner, more elegant, better honed if you strip it out.
Is your novel carrying the baggage of previous lives? Do you de-clutter your stories?
authors, beta reader, characters, clutter, critiques, DNA, fiction, how to write a book, how to write a novel, infinite detail, inspiration, junk, junk DNA, language imagery, movies, My Memories of a Future Life, Plot, polishing, publishing, redundant DNA, revisions, Rewriting, Roz Morris, story structures, Theme, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing business, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing life, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart
- Join 20,334 other followers
- ‘If you are serious about writing, don’t hide it’ – John McCaffrey @jamccaffrey July 20, 2022
- Your first pages – 5 #speculativefiction manuscripts critiqued at @Litopia by literary agent @AgentPete @AJ_Dickenson and me! July 18, 2022
- Eight points for writing a memoir in personal essays July 10, 2022
- ‘A space in which language can play and find itself’ – talking about slow discovery writing with poet Rishi Dastidar @BetaRish June 20, 2022
- What do we most want as writers? June 12, 2022
- ‘I just keep making things’ – Melanie Faith @writer_faith on patience, fulfilment and the long game in art May 31, 2022
- The push-pull in a person’s soul – how to keep readers desperately hooked. Interview with Mary Kole @Kid_Lit May 25, 2022
- Join 20,334 other followers