I’m working on revising the book I’ve been working on most of this year, getting ready to send it to my agent, and I’m trying something different this time. In the past, I’ve tended to just go back through the book, revising as I go, but I’ve found that this tends to lead to me rearranging or fixing words rather than tackling structural issues. I found some books on revising at the library that suggested making a “map” of the book, going scene-by-scene to analyze each one on the basis of what’s going on, what the characters’ goals are, what subplots are present, what the purpose of the scene is, etc.
I spent yesterday doing this, using a sheet of paper for each scene so I’d have room for additional notes (one book suggested using index cards, and there’s no way I could fit this info on a card), and it’s interesting how just going through this exercise made some of the problems more obvious. You can’t help but notice your “darling” scenes that you love but that don’t really have a purpose in the book. For those, you either have to cut them, possibly moving some of the elements you need elsewhere, or you have to find a way to incorporate a key plot point so that there’s a purpose.
Doing this also shows the plot points that don’t go anywhere, the things being set up that don’t really pay off.
But I also found that I’ve entirely unconsciously incorporated some pretty powerful symbolism. Now that I know it’s there, I can use it deliberately. We’re talking term paper kind of stuff that English teachers would love. I didn’t plan on these things serving that purpose, but looking back, it really does track what’s going on with the character. I love it when stuff like that happens.
After doing the scene-by-scene analysis, I went back and wrote a plot outline, then outlined the emotional internal plot and the various subplots. That showed me where some things need to be fixed. I can go in and fix these elements in these scenes, and that way the book should be more or less in order before I go through it and fix the words.
And I have two weeks to do this. Eep!