Allan Mayer’s Weblog

revijhion… revizeon… revision!

Posted on: May 7, 2008

So, you’ve got something which looks like a novel. Well it’s a big bulky wad of paper with words on it

(should be no less than 80,000 of those.)

Once you’ve worked out that what you’re waving around isn’t a phonebook, chances are you’ve got the first draft of your novel. But is it literature? And… will it sell?

Although you will be itching to get your masterpiece into the hands of a publisher, it can pay to put your work away in a drawer for a while before you commence revision. This way you can come to it with fresh eyes.

Approach it like it’s someone else’s work and be brutal.

This scene which took you months to write, does it move the story on, or develop your characters? If it wasn’t there would anyone notice? You may just need to ditch it and not look back.

Is a passage economical?

Sometimes it helps to slow down the pace, to have a brief meditation or ‘set piece.’ Sometimes the information imparted could be passed on in a line of dialogue.

Does your prose flow? Does it have a natural rhythm? When characters speak,

is it believable that someone would talk like that?

Read your work out aloud. If you find you get tongue tied over a phrase, maybe it needs changing, shortening, or to have the order of words altered. Any sections about which you have doubts, try recording them, or get someone else to look. (Not that I could do that- I can never show my work to anyone until it’s as good as I can get it.)

How many times do you revise? I’m with Hemingway on that one-

you revise until the day you go through it and you can find nothing else to change.

I think that this is a common trait of all successful writers, but how they approach this can vary from one to another. Rather than writing a novel then going through it and through it, Dean Koontz writes one page at a time. He will then revise that page thirty or forty times, before he is happy to move on.

I found a real difficulty with my revisions in that some chapters just didn’t work in the person in which I had written them. I once turned the entire book from a first to a third person narrative. It didn’t work, because my aim in having a first person was for him to be an everyman with whom the reader could identify in an unfamiliar world. I eventually decided to mix the voices. A common criticism of this is that it ‘jars.’ But several people have now read my text and not one of them- even the most critical readers- has even mentioned this.

A good example of the use of multiple voices is ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.’ There the change of voice is well indicated by section headings. If you are not going to do this you need to

make sure that the voices are sufficiently distinct,

so that from the first line of the new passage or chapter the reader is left in no doubt as to who is speaking.

In ‘Tasting the Wind’ I have attempted to do this by making Martin’s narration a little more colloquial, and having him always speak in the present tense. Have a listen to the Prologue, which I added to the first posting on this blog, followed by the opening of Chapter One (below) and judge for yourself whether or not it works.

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