PlotSpackle™ and Revision Sanding

Ever notice how revisions keep applying to smaller and smaller details? I start with the PlotSpackle™, then sand it down with a low grit abrasive, then use a finer grit, and ever finer for innumerable iterations after that.

Before I even started writing the initial draft of my novel, I knew I was going to have to do some serious editing. As I really got into that process, I deduced that I’d probably have three major rounds of revisions before I was ready either to self-publish or shop the manuscript—Round One: make something I’m not ashamed to show to my critique partners (CPs); Round Two: use CP feedback to make a coherent, mostly polished draft; Round Three: get feedback from a professional editor to make a shop-ready draft.

Counter to my own expectations, I’m in middle of Rounds One and Two simultaneously, though R2 is several chapters behind R1. (Funny how what we think the process will be like rarely matches with how things actually pan out.) Within each major revision round are also several smaller revisions, each version polishing the work to a slightly higher shine. I keep going back and finding just one more tiny thing to fix before calling it good. I think I understand now why some authors say their books are never really “done.”

Anyway, R1 has now made it to one of the climactic chapters, and it’s really making me tear my hair out. I’m pleasantly surprised at the amount of action and tension that I somehow poured into these pages in those initial throes of creativity. On the other hand, there are so many minor details that no longer fit in with how I’ve changed the story leading up to this point that I hardly know where to start.

It’s maddening. I’ve got some great stuff—a shape-changer’s shift described in detail, a couple of different types of magic being used in battle—but not all of it works. This person shouldn’t be attacking that person in the manner depicted; this magic mechanism needs to be clearer and modified to match the new reasoning behind it; my protagonist’s reactions need to be more calculated to match her own plans… It’s a mess.

Even so, it made my heart race a little the first time I reread it in months; I know there’s a great scene buried in there. Now I just have to figure out how to sand down the high spots left by all that PlotSpackle™.

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