3. Feedback & Revision
(vii) REVISION THAT ESCALATES
Every novel is a tapestry woven from a million threads. Move one a little this way or that, and you have to make changes leading up to it, changes flowing out from it. Even local revisions spread out as soon as you try to merge them in smoothly.
The most daunting kind of revision is when you yank at one particular thread and the whole fabric starts to unravel. Every solution causes a larger problem somewhere else; alternatives multiply uncontrollably.
It’s scary, but it can also be invigorating. When you get over the initial panic, you may find that the unraveling has opened up possible new connections and stronger story angles elsewhere. It’s a win-win situation when one improvement makes space for another.
I admit, I like to do more revision than I’m asked for. If I can add improvements to improvements, I feel I’m back in charge again. Very mollifying to my bruised creative ego! I dive into revision in a totally positive frame of mind.
I dive in at the first page of the novel and work all the way through to the last. Some writers I know can jump back and forth, revising here and there. When I try that, I lose track of motivation, I leave threads dangling.
I prefer to gather up all the revisions that are worth making, then re-write and re-live the whole story chronologically. That way, I know I’m taking everything into account—including the wispy implications I’ve never consciously thought about.