Monday 13 May 2013

Some things I think about when I revise

I'm currently two thirds of the way through the first revision of my next novel, Tube Riders: Exile. The first revision is generally the hardest, because that's where you come up against all the plot holes and stuff. While revising, I mostly concentrate on getting the writing tight as well as a smooth rhythm and the correct tone. However, while I do it I make a list of all the things I need to go back and look at later.

Of course, for those of you who've read Tube Riders, you'll know that it is a masterpiece of dystopian fiction :-). However, it had issues. Here are some of the issues I've made a note of during my revision of Exile, just so you can see that in first draft form my books are a long way from the wonderfully polished articles that are available for sale.

(of course all names have been edited out to avoid spoilers)

Change the (character)'s weapon?
(name)/other characters regard (character) as “it” but from (character)'s POV they become “he”.
Check heaven/god/hell etc for capital usage
Where did (name)'s contact lenses go?
Where did (name)/(name)'s guns go between watching the (character) and coming out of the tunnel?
French police titles
God damn or goddamn
Try to edit out ‘for a moment/second’
(name)'s burn is on the right
(name)'s eyes are blue
Try to edit out ‘just a few metres’
(name) is a British (thing) so why does he need a French translation?
Check rapid/rabid

Some interesting stuff in there. Some of it is really basic typo stuff, like rapid/rabid. It's very easy to get words like these mixed up, which is where proofreaders come in. Another I always check for is scarring/scaring, and one my proofreader found was lopped/loped. Make a long list of these as you find them and find/replace to get rid of them.

Things like "French police titles" are a worldbuilding detail. Most of Exile is set in France, so I want it to be as authentic as possible. I have been there a number of times, but I know nothing about the French police (thank God) or military.

The notes about "blue eyes" and "burns" are consistency details. As a general rule I don't go into a great deal of death over character detail. Some writers do, but I find it incredibly boring and for the most part irrelevant. Same with clothing. However, when you do use it, you have to make sure it's the same throughout. If a character has a birthmark on the right side of their face, it better not be on the left five chapters later. Unless it's a fake one, of course ...

There are a couple of notes on overused phrases. For me these are usually time/distance - "For a moment", "a few metres away", etc. If you repeat them too often they become boring so I always try to edit some of them out.

The note about a French translation is a character inconsistency. For example, when you have French characters, there has to be a reason why they can speak in English. Of course they can learn, but why did they learn? You don't have to write it all out in detail, but it should be obvious or implied by the plot.

"God damn vs goddamn" and the note on capitalization of "heaven/hell" etc, is a style thing. I see both used, and the reason I've highlighted these notes are because they need to be consistent, one way or the other. You can vary them if used in speech by two or more different characters, but not if they're used in the general narrative. Pick one, stick to it.

The notes about guns and contact lenses are simple plot holes. In one chapter a character is holding a gun, then two chapters later the gun has disappeared. Where did it go? These are all things you need to pick up and fix. My books are full of things like this because I don't write a detailed outline, just a few notes on each chapter. However, within two or three revisions they're usually fixed.

Anyway, that's just a little insight into my writing process. And on that note, I'd better get back to it ...

Chris Ward
May 14th 2013

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