Every road has a pothole or two; none is ever completely smooth. How boring the journey would be without challenges along the way!
The revision road is no different.
In the revisions letter from Wild Rose Press, the editor identified three main areas in my manuscript needing improvement:
• Point of View (POV) changes
• Insufficient motivation
• Writing too passive
These, then, were the challenges facing me as I began my journey along revision road. I am resting awhile, before starting on a different route of the same road (the revisions for my mainstream manuscript) and can now look fondly back on those once daunting challenges.
What did I learn from them?
Point of View: I’m not comfortable in 3rd person POV. I prefer 1st person. That preference was clear as, at times, I changed POV too rapidly within the same scene. This wasn’t as bad as expected. What did surprise me, however, was the subtlety of some of the POV slips.
Lesson Learned: When in the heroine’s POV, avoid the hero’s thoughts. How can the heroine know what the hero is thinking? Check pronoun and noun usage to ensure that the POV stays consistent and does not signal a change where no change of POV was intended.
Insufficient Motivation: What drives your characters to act the way they do? Has something happened in their past? Is it a personality trait? Or is it an external challenge? What deep feelings drive them? Without adequate reason for a character to act in a certain way, the story becomes unrealistic. My characters had their motivations for acting in certain ways; I never showed those motivations in a way that created logical intention or realistic actions.
Lesson Learned: Keep motivations simple. Rather have fewer, well-developed, motivations then half-thought-out complex motivations. In addition, keep motivations consistent with the character’s personality and actions.
Passive Writing: This was a pothole so large I nearly never crawled out of it! By far the hardest part of the revision road was learning to recognise when I used passive writing, which slows down pace and adds wordiness. One consolation is that, with each dredge through the manuscript, it’s easier to recognise the patterns which snarl and snare the active voice.
Lesson Learned: If you think you’ve cut down enough words, look again. And again. There will always be somewhere else in the text where you can say in one excellent word what you said in three ordinary words. Get rid of the writing flab (including unnecessary adjectives, adverbs and all forms of the passive verb “to be”). Keep writing tight. Remember active writing is writing with attitude.
Perhaps my journey for this manuscript has ended. Perhaps I am merely in a rest camp and more obstacles await if I must begin another round of revisions. There is no certain outcome at the end of this road but, even if I haven’t done enough to bring this manuscript up to publishable standards, what I have learned from these revisions can only help me improve the next one and the next.
There are, though, two certainties I take with me: I feel more like a “real writer” now, than I ever have before. And no journey, no challenges, are ever wasted.