Revisions Are Making Me Dizzy

I don’t know how other writers work, but my revision process is not linear—especially not once I get outside feedback from my critique partners (CPs). Lately I’ve found myself nearly getting lost in iterative loops as I keep refining chapters. I can hardly remember what I’ve added (or subtracted) where, and which clarifications have been made to allow a later section to make sense as originally written (or did that section already get cut out anyway?).

It’s those blasted fuller descriptions that are at fault. It all makes sense to me; why does a reader need to be told? (Oh yeah… That whole “outside my head” thing again.) You mean someone actually wants to read the details that I purposely glossed over during my hurried first draft and failed to elaborate on later because I didn’t make any notes? Bother. Well, fine. I can do that. I’ll just add a little something here. Don’t worry—I’ve added something in an earlier chapter to fix that other problem, so this fix will make sense here, even though it’s not as much as you wanted.

Or something like that.

The problem with iterative revisions, I’ve found, is that I go in so many circles in a single chapter that I lose the overall thread of the story—or at least of character development. Sprinkling breadcrumbs back through previous chapters doesn’t necessarily leave me with a coherent trail because I’ve scuffed over the turf so often.

So now what? Well, I’ve decided it’s time to try larger circles—a bigger chunk of text as the piece that gets polished as a single entity. Instead of working on single chapters consecutively, going back to previous ones as I get feedback until I’m changing details within minutes of CP comments (not necessarily as productive as it might sound!), I’m going to bite off a chunk of several previously revised chapters instead.

The idea is that with a larger segment of the overall story arc to consider, I’ll be better able to see the direction of its flow. Did I leave a huge sandbar in the middle where the narrative runs dry, only to pick up on the other side, rushing ahead without looking back? Or have I meandered so far off course I’ve created an oxbow bend that could just as well have been bypassed entirely?

Whatever the case, I hope the ride smoothes out; I’m getting awfully dizzy.

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