Kelly's thoughts on Write Great Fiction: Revision & Self-Editing
Very few people jump for joy at the thought of revising. But it doesn’t have to be a grueling, gut-wrenching process, either.
James Scott Bell, best-selling novelist and author of Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure (a previous Kelly’s Pick) and the forthcoming Art of War for Writers, explores the nuances of revising in his book Write Great Fiction: Revision & Self-Editing, saying:
It is said that Michelangelo, when asked how he had sculpted his masterpiece, David, replied, “I looked at the stone and removed all that was not David.”
Not a bad description of the novel revision process. From the mass of words you have created, you’ll take away all that is not your novel. You’ll chisel and add, touch up, and cut, but in the end what you want is your story in its purest form.
And only you can decide what form that will be.
Bell spends the first half of the book looking at self-editing, which he describes as the “ability to know what makes fiction work, so when you actually write (as in a first draft) you’re crafting salable fiction.”
In the second half of the book, then, Bell provides a systematic approach for revising a completed draft and offers up an Ultimate Revision Checklist that includes Key Questions and Common Fixes for everything from character, to plot, to voice and style, etc. You can take a look at the Plot Revision Checklist here.
Also check out this excerpt from chapter fifteen, and discover why it’s so important to do a careful first read-through of your manuscript before you start the revising and editing.
And, just in case you need a little extra guidance or encouragement as you revise your novel, this book now has its very own interactive eight-week spin-off workshop at WritersOnlineWorkshops.com. (You can check out the full course outline and workshop assignments here.)
So, while you may never find yourself calling revision fun, per se, it’s still something you can become quite good at by learning the right techniques. Your first drafts will thank you!