Saturday, May 31, 2008

Revising the Novel - Use of the Ten-Point Revision Strategy


Before we continue on with our discussion about theme in the novel, and how, with a little bit of time and thought, your discovery of the theme of your novel will sharpen and tighten your writing, I wanted to make two quick digressions.

First, I wanted to thank all the readers who've come over and left comments. Your response has been greater than I ever imagined. I created the Ten-Point Revision Strategy out of necessity to finish this (hopefully) final draft of my novel. My agent is waiting for it and I was struggling to get it done. I needed a guidepost, some freeway signs to get me moving in the right direction. I wanted to share with all interested writers this strategy as a suggested tool that may help your writing as well. So, thank you.

Secondly, I wanted to move back to an early point in the strategy, #5 End Chapter Earlier, and add an example. As I'm going through my revision, I've utilized this point at almost every opportunity, and I've been amazed at how much it can improve a chapter.

The goal here is very simple and follows the old axiom: Start after the beginning, end before the ending.

I'd found in my writing, I tended to end with neat little summaries or chapter tie-ups that I believed set up the next chapter or created a cliff hanger ending. After learning this tip from Robert Dugoni, I've rethought this part of my writing, and as I'm moving through this revision, I've tried cutting out at least the last paragraph, or more, of each chapter. And I think it works.

Here's an example from my novel, with the before and after point #5 revision. Please comment back on whether or not you think this simple strategy hasn't made the ending more interesting, less predictable and more ominous. I look forward to reading your responses.

Not much set-up is needed for this scene. The Senator is talking to a member of his inner circle, discussing a research project (our hero's) that has become a hot topic in the upcoming election. For reasons revealed in the novel, the Senator needs the project to fail to bolster his candidacy. The reader, by this time, knows something is up, some sabotage of the research is planned, but not what that plan is.

Here's before the use of point #5.


Roderick nodded. “But that’s not the issue here—“

“But it is,” the Senator said, holding up his hands. “Don't lose sight of that. The failure of Abrahms’s research will bring unprecedented exposure to this issue. The family connection makes it even stronger. We just need to play our cards right. Once his research fails my stock will soar. This will hand us the election.”

“What if he succeeds?”

“He won’t.”

“But what if—“

The Senator cut him off with a gaze so full of certainty it made Roderick shudder. “He won’t.”

Roderick nodded and rose to his feet. “I’ll keep the forces in check.” He turned and headed towards the Pennsylvania Street exit.

McIntyre watched Roderick walk by the Iraqis, then reached into his breast pocket, pulling out his iphone. With deft movements, he typed a message then launched it into cyberspace.

It’s time for action. . . immediately

He knew the recipient would know what the pre-planned course of action would be.



And now here's after.

Roderick nodded. “But that’s not the issue here—“

“But it is,” the Senator said, holding up his hands. “Don’t lose sight of that. The failure of Abrahms’s research will bring unprecedented exposure to this issue. The family connection makes it even stronger. We just need to play our cards right. Once his research fails my stock will soar. This will hand us the election.”

“What if he succeeds?”

“He won’t.”

“But what if—“

The Senator cut him off with a gaze so full of certainty it made Roderick shudder. “Don’t worry. He won’t.”


It's such a simple change. All I did was cut out that last little bit, a concluding action, but I think it makes the ending much stronger. What do you think?

If you like this idea, try it in your own writing and see if it doesn't help.

1 comment:

Martha Alderson said...

Excellent blog!!

I'm going to add it to my list of favorite blogs!

Great info. Keep up the good work.

Martha
www.plotwhisperer.blogspot.com