Lessons from Revisions

This week was hard. For many days, the words did not want to flow. Finally, I hit my stride after work on Friday and actually finished chapter 12. And in hitting that stride, I had a realization.

Revisions are weird.

They really are. You can be on your fourth draft or your tenth and your characters will still do things that surprise you. And that leads me to the point of this blog, the lessons that can be gleaned from revision.

First, a quick definition. I define revision as a change to your manuscript that goes beyond line edits, where you're changing characterization, plot, tone, or some combination of those and other story traits. To show you how much can change through one pass of revisions, I'll share some numbers with you:

  • My first draft of VISIONS OF DARKNESS was 51K words.
  • The second draft? 84K
  • In the third draft I tightened the MS to a fast-paced 68K words.
  • And draft four? As of right now it's 75K and I expect it to stay about there.

A lot can happen when you take out or add 10-30K words per revision. And in this draft, while I am adding some important scenes in the middle of the story to flesh it out, the main climax of the story is remaining technically the same. The same things happen, yes, but I'm closing a huge plot hole in the process.

How? But asking one simple, yet vitally important, question.

WHY.

Asking why your characters do something can be the difference between a huge plot hole and a story that makes sense. And this is without changing the actions, but rather the motivations behind them.

I can't go into too much detail without giving away the climax of my story, so instead, I encourage you to ask your characters, "Why?"

  • Why doesn't your MC tell her parents about what's going on? (This is a common concern in YA)
  • Why is your villain convinced your MC is the girl of prophesy who will destroy them unless they kill her first?
  • Why does the love interest fall for your heroine? What makes her so special?
  • Why do the big baddies want to destroy the world? What do they gain in doing so?
  • Why does the best friend agree with your MC? Why doesn't she argue more?

Find out "why" your characters do what they do, and I guarantee your plot will be stronger for it.

So tell me, what are some of the "why" questions you need to ask your characters? Or, are the "how" questions giving you more trouble right now?

Until next time!

-Isabel