Friday, June 3, 2011

On Un-Revising

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Writing friend Camille LaGuire, wrote an interesting post on her Daring Novelist blog the other day.

Camille noted that she’d recently needed to un-revise (a term I think she’s coined!) a large portion of text in the middle of her manuscript. She said that her instincts were good (there was an area that needed work), but her efforts to edit the scenes she thought were causing a lagging pace led to some problems…then more problems. In fact, the revision created a sort of domino effect of additional revisions….and what’s more, it changed the plot, and not in a good way. She states:

And one of the things that happened with the misbegotten revision was that (a main character) sobered up to deal with some things in the middle. And that means the emotional trajectory of the sequence changes.

Camille makes the point that a character’s emotional state is trajectory… it powers the plot.

She had a character that was out of control, and his lack of control was powering the plot. Camille didn’t need to create a situation where this character regained control—she actually needed to increase his downward spiral.

The post resonated with me because I’d faced a similar situation in a manuscript. I had actually done a large revision, changing the murderer and the personalities of several of the characters. I’d put a lot of time into the changes, meticulously working through the manuscript to make sure that I’d switched everything to fit my revision and keep continuity in the new version.

But after reading it through, it just wasn’t right. I’d written it with particular character foibles that set off other character foibles and character reactions. Those reactions had triggered a particular series of events. It just didn’t make as much sense as the way I’d written the story before.

So I un-revised. And that was one of those times where I patted myself on the back for keeping old versions of my manuscript. I went back to the previous version and thought of a different way to approach my problem. (I ended up adding some additional tension to a couple of scenes, which worked well.)

Have you ever gone through a lengthy revision to find out it just didn’t work? Was it easy to un-revise?


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