I’ve had to remind myself not to get bogged down in minutia. (Do mechanics/style edits still count as minutia if the entire manuscript is riddled with them? I’m going with “yes.”)
Over the past week or two, I’ve been having a serious “forest for the trees” (or “plot for the revisions,” I suppose) experience with the current version of my novel. There is so much to be done to bring the manuscript up to snuff that I’ve been effectively paralyzed. Where do I start? Chapter One?
Sure; good plan. Let’s see here… Do I move this scene from Chapter Four to the beginning, add in a new scene, and cut my old opening scene, or do I cut a mid-chapter scene and replace it with that one from Ch. 4? Fine, I can try it both ways and see which works better. But then there’s all this excess exposition to eliminate, point of view slippage to overhaul, and tacky grammatical habits to fix. Harumph.
All right—how about another chapter? Great; except that the same issues abound, and it’s still a struggle to figure out which scenes should stay and which need to be cut, relocated, or edited to match changes elsewhere in the story. Each of the first four chapters (I’ve at least managed to focus myself that much) has a plethora of problems. Choosing where to start is daunting, to say the least.
This is where everything falls apart. I get so overwhelmed with the number and variety of revisions I need to make that even when I whittle it down to a small chunk of the novel—or even a single chapter—I can’t figure out where to start. The story-arc forest is getting lost amongst the vast number of edit-trees.
Only yesterday did I finally make my way to the top of one of those trees long enough to see out over the canopy. I’m working on a completely new scene that will move some of the action to an earlier point in the plot, and give my protagonist more agency. Since in previous versions, she’s reacted to events rather than making decisions that drive the plot, I’m hoping this change will both make her a more interesting character and get the reader more engaged in her journey.
The key, though, is that I’m writing again—I’ve caught sight of the forest. Maybe now I’ll finally be able to plunge back into my revisions with a decent sense of the new direction I want to take the plot. At the very least, I’ve made some changes that can distance me from the previous version. Maybe that’s all I need.