Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chapter-By-Chapter Revisions

Last week I explained my broad revision process. This week I'll describe my nitty-gritty, chapter-by-chapter process. This is the most intense stage of revising for me.

My entire book is printed out. I separate the chapters and put each one in a vanilla folder. Why? It gives me the illusion that the job won't be as enormous as I think. Any way I can trick my mind helps. The red pen comes out of hiding. I grab the vanilla folder marked "Chapter One" and take the stack of papers out. There may be a bit of hyperventilation; there may not be. It really depends on my general state of mind. For this book, I got lucky--no spaz attacks!

I begin reading through the chapter. Chapter One always takes a long time because I analyze my opening. A few questions I ask myself are "Have I started the book at the best place?" and "Is this compelling enough for someone to want to continue reading?" More often than not, I've opened the book at a weak point, or at the very least, not the strongest point. The red pen moves furiously.

Once I've nailed the opening scene (and worried about it, because hey, I thought I'd nailed it before--sometimes several times for the same story!), I read through the chapter with these questions in mind:

1. Do the opening line and paragraph pack a punch?
2. Do they reflect the main reason for the book?
3. Do the closing line and paragraph pack a punch?
4. Does the chapter entice the reader to want to keep reading?
5. Are the characters interesting? Are they necessary? Did I refer to each character by only one name to avoid confusion? Ex: Jane Simmons could be Jane, Mrs. Simmons, Tim's wife, etc...
6. Is the dialogue snappy? Have I eliminated all commonplace dialogue such as greetings and goodbyes?
7. Have I written boring scenes where the character is thinking while eating, or brushing his teeth, or thinking in the shower? All boring, everyday routines can safely be eliminated.
8. How many scenes does the chapter contain?
9. Does each scene have a start and a finish? Does each scene contain a change that moves the story forward? Is each scene written in one time, one place, and from one viewpoint?
10. Are at least one of the five senses engaged in each scene?
11.Does every scene in the chapter belong in the book? Can any be safely cut?
12. Is the setting adequate in each scene? Is the description too short or too tedious?
13. Is the pace appropriate for this point in the book? Is there a point where it feels too fast, too slow? Jarring?
14. Have I avoided cliche's?
15. Have I wrapped up all loose ends? I don't want to throw clues in the book and never address them again.
16. Have I stayed in deep point of view as much as possible?

Point 16 means a lot to me. When I've analyzed the chapter for the first 15 points, I go back and read through each scene, mentally replacing third person with first person to make sure I haven't accidentally switched viewpoints. It also helps add the deep point of view so necessary for romance writers to connect with the reader.

I repeat this process for each chapter until the first draft is no longer white but blood red. Then, I type in all of the changes, replace all of the lazy and repetitive words throughout, tighten up all of the writing, and read it aloud as the final step.

So there you have it. It sounds and looks much harder than it is. Many of the chapters have little wrong with them but need more description or tweaks to the deep point of view. I try to revise three to four chapters a day after I've completed the first chapter.

Wish me luck as I continue on the revising trail.

Enjoy your week!

1 comment:

  1. Jill,
    Loved this blog, I found your "steps" informative and useful!


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