Rachael, who’s been chosen as a runner-up in the Modern Heat contest (hooray!), posted a comment asking me to talk about how I revise my work. I assume this is because you’re facing revisions, too, Rachael?
She said: Would love to hear more about how you revise and whether this is purely from editorial feedback or you have a method of revision you go through for each book.
I think it’s because I’ve been working to such tight deadlines for the past four years, or maybe it’s because I’m half-pantser half-plotter, but when I write a first draft, I don’t tend to revise at all, or minimally. If the scene I’m writing is rubbish, I’ll scrap it and start over, but I won’t go backwards in the book to fix stuff I’ve already done some time ago.
There are two reasons for this: one is that I’m a perfectionist, and could easily get caught up with making everything “perfect” before I move on, which would mean I’d never get a book done. The second is that I never know precisely what’s going to happen as the book goes on, so it makes more sense to revise earlier parts once I’ve finished the whole book, when I’m confident of the story, the emotional arc, the structure, the imagery and symbolism, where I need to scrap or add subplot, etc. Otherwise, I’ll have revised it earlier for nothing.
This means that in theory, once I’m done with a first draft, I can have a lot of revising to do. For the past few books, though, that hasn’t happened. I think I’ve been lucky, and had a fairly clear vision of the characters from the start and the kind of plot and structure that were necessary. Most of my revisions have been to add depth, flesh out plot and character, or refine what was there in rough from the beginning.
With this book I’m working on now, though, a lot needs to change. Even such basic things as the verb tense. A couple of the secondary characters are totally wrong at first, I wrote lots of unnecessary bumpf to write myself into the book, and the subplots are off. About midway through I came up with lots of ideas that I thought would solve my problems, and as I wrote I incorporated them in as if they’d been there all along. Some of those ideas work, and some of them don’t and have to be scrapped. I’m going to have to rewrite or seriously change most of the first 30,000 words.
The upshot of all of this is, that composing and revising are, for me, two different processes. I know some people can revise as they go, but I don’t choose to. I could, but I think it would slow me down and I’d end up revising a lot more.
Anyway, with this book that needs lots of revision I expect I’ll follow the same revision process as normal. And I’ll talk about that a little bit later, tonight or tomorrow, because now I have to tend to cranky child.
And eat chocolate.