Revising a Fiction Novel- a memoir of the process

I have a freebie for you today!

When I began revising I searched for how others revise and found great advice, but never a deep dive into the actual process. So here is a memoir style post from me about my experience revising my WIP. Down here in the trenches, it is not pretty. You’ve been warned.

Reedsy recommends passes like this:

  • Step 1: Read through your book and take notes
  • Step 2: Address the timeline and overall pacing
  • Step 3: Round out any flat characters
  • Step 4: Fill in gaps in your world building
  • Step 5: Hone your scene-by-scene pacing and dialogue
  • Step 6: Copy edit carefully — look out for bad habits!

That is well and good. I started to do just that. Step 1, done! Step 2… It got messy. I got to chapter 10 and stalled because there were so many problems with my novel.

Revision Passes

I’ve read many books on craft that include revision process which say something similar. It all looks really simple when you write it as a bulleted list. In reality, it is far from simple. It is grueling. It is WAY OVERWHELMING! I know people say it doesn’t get any easier after you’ve written a dozen books, but I really hope that some aspects of being an author get easier. I hope I will write a better first draft. Next time, I hope I can organize my revision process better. We shall see. I’ll keep you posted!

Here are a few books I learned from:
Intuitive Editing by Tiffany Yates Martin
Wired for Story by Lisa Cron
Revision & Self Editing by James Scott Bell
Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody
Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown & Dave King
Creating Character Arcs by KM Weiland

Not all the books above are specifically about revision, but I’m finding myself referencing these books as I revise this current novel. I outlined this novel, and it looked great on paper, and it made perfect sense to me. Then I wrote the novel. As I wrote, it felt sparse. Now I’m revising it chapter by chapter, fixing big things first. I printed out the complete manuscript and made notes through the whole thing about what needs fixing. One of the big things is pacing. So I added description and thoughts where they needed to be added. It still wasn’t right. It was better, but something still wasn’t there.

I have 2 Main Characters. Joan is the shining star in this one. (Albert was the narrator in the short story.) Of Two Worlds is in 3rd person omniscient but Joan is the primary focus because she grows the most in this story. Also, this is YA, so I figured one plot line was good.

Here is what my plot looked like:
Plot A
3 weeks pass
Plot A
2 weeks pass
Plot A

For some novels, that is fine. But somehow that wasn’t working for me. But I couldn’t really pin down what was wrong. I sat down with my editor (and friend) who understands me and how I operate very well. I am one who needs to process externally sometimes. So we talked for 3 hours at a coffee shop.

It always bothered me that we don’t get to know the dragons very well. My gut was telling me they needed space to tell their story, too. And Albert seemed very passive in this story, as it was written. Albert and the Dragons needed their own plot line. I processed externally with her and we brainstormed. I’m a real weirdo when I’m brainstorming with other people. Often they will suggest something. I say no, that’s not right, but it triggers an idea in my mind that sets me off running with the idea. Do you ever do that?

So she told me to go back to the character sheet I made for my main characters and add a sheet for each of the dragons and the “Chess Master.” That’s the big unknown baddie that is ultimately the source of all their problems, they don’t know about him/her in book 1. So crazy right? I have to do a character sheet that doesn’t even appear in this book. lol.

Kathryn Fletcher’s Character Sheet v.2022 (I updated it with a few new fields.)

Kathryn Fletcher’s Character Sheet v.2022 without boxes For those who don’t like them in boxes or are using a program like Scrivener.

The character sheet forced me to sit and think about these characters and develop their personalities and their goals in this story, which in turn helped me develop the plot line.

So now the story will look like this:
Plot A
Plot B
Plot A
Plot B
Plot A

Time still passes, but Plot line B fills that void and gives a better feeling of that time passing. I think I’ll be much happier with this iteration of the story. Plus, more time with dragons!!

If I can ever finish these major plot issues, maybe I can move on to the more fiddly part of revising and editing. Have you found it helpful or interesting to see a bit of my process?