I want to talk a little bit about revision process today. Let me be clear up front, this isn’t *the* revision process. This is *my* revision process. More accurately, it’s the revision process I’m using for this particular book. There are a hundred ways to revise a book. None of them are wrong. This is just one of them, inspired from a brief twitter conversation yesterday where I said I needed to find a scene. So I thought I’d explain that a little bit.
To understand where this is going, I have to first tell you that this is a book 2. It’s not really a sequel…more like an episode 2. Book one definitely had an ending, so this is sort of a new beginning. This was an interesting task for me, because I don’t plot books very much. I tend write the first draft as me telling myself the story. In this case, I had the character, I knew how it started, and I knew how it ended. So hey, I only need the 75,000 words in the middle, and I’m good. No sweat. Some people would make an outline. That doesn’t work for me (I make it, then promptly ignore it as my characters go off on their own merry way.)
I started writing and got through the first draft, and I had to be honest with myself. The story I’d told myself in that first draft wasn’t very good. It was also 60,000 words long, which is a pretty good ways short of the 80 to 90 thousand I need. So that was a problem. Except it wasn’t. Because I figured something out. I also created some scenes that sort of worked, and a couple of scenes that really worked, so it was well worth the time.
The breakthrough came with one of the scenes that really worked. In the first draft, I had this great scene where the main character learned that the things he thought he knew were not the things that really were (I’m being purposely vague here, so I don’t mess this up for my beta readers.) The problem was, this scene happened at about the 25,000 word mark in the first draft. Eventually I realized that was the midpoint of the book, and once I figured that out everything fell into place. By locking in the midpoint, and already having the ending, it gave me enough of a plan to develop the rest of the story. And it worked. As soon as I got that straight in my head, the words started flowing. I wrote 33,000 words in 12 days, and I started to get those cool moments where I wasn’t even working on the book, but my mind was figuring it out anyway.
With what I’ve got and what I have left to do in the first half of the book, the midpoint scene is going to hit between 35,000 and 37,000 word mark. That’s not horrible, but I need it to fall more like the 40,000 to 45,000 range. Which is what led to me saying that I needed to find a scene. More accurately, I probably need to find one big scene and one or two little scenes. So where do those scenes come from? I don’t want to just add words for the sake of adding words, because that’s a recipe for a slow book. I know historically I’ll gain 1000 to 2000 words in my next revision, as I remove some telling and add some showing, as well as putting some meat on the bones of the setting, but anything more than that would just be bloat. So when I add a scene, it needs to *do* something. Most likely it needs to make something harder for the main character.
In the same twitter exchange, Rachel Chaney joked that I needed to add explosions (which is always a viable suggestion.) And I laughed, but then I started thinking…what if I did? When in doubt, blow something up. Because it really is always a viable suggestion. In my books, I can literally blow something up. But it could just as well be a figurative blowing up, if you happened to write something where real explosions didn’t fit. I haven’t quite figured out what’s blowing up or where it’s going, but I’m getting closer. I also found two smaller scenes. One where I left a secondary character out after the fifth chapter and she needs a check-in, and another where I can turn up the tension for the main character with a quick exchange with his boss. Once I get it all worked out, that should give me another 4 or 5 thousand words that make things better, add tension, and move the plot. And it should put the midpoint right around 40,000. Add to that what I’ll gain in the rewrite, and that’s just about right.
Now wait a damned minute.
You might be asking yourself why I’m stressing out about getting the midpoint in a certain spot. I mean, other than the obvious answer that it’s called the midpoint. Some people might find that over-restrictive. But to me, it’s the opposite. Knowing where that scene goes frees me up to write to it. It lines up the other key plot points, and it keeps the book balanced. It’s an important scene, and I don’t want to rush to it, because then the second half of the book would probably feel slow as I took 50,000 words to do what I should do in 40 to 45,000.
Again, I’m not suggesting this as a revision strategy for everyone. Maybe you’re a plotter/planner, and you can write to an outline. Maybe you’re a pantser and your midpoint just naturally ends up where it should be. Maybe you don’t really care about a midpoint. Those are all viable solutions, and if it works for you, go for it. Hell, I probably won’t even do it the same way with my next book. But since I was really seeing what I was doing here, I thought I’d share it.
Now back to the revision. I need to blow something up.