Truth: revision is difficult.
Truth: revision makes manuscripts stronger.
Truth: revision is necessary.
It’s sometimes hard to know where to begin when you sit down to revise. This is especially true when revising your first draft. What aspects of the manuscript need the most attention? Are there any easy fixes?
The good thing is that most writers have tools available: critique partners, books about craft, and writing classes. Critique partners will help you work through the problems specific to your manuscript, will help you brainstorm possible fixes, and will tell you both what you’re doing right and what areas need work. Books about craft often focus about a single aspect of a manuscript, such as plot or character, that you know you must strengthen. Writing classes can likewise focus on a single aspect or a more macro approach–entire manuscript, or novel-writing in general, with a teacher–a mentor–to guide you.
For me, reading SECOND SIGHT was like having all of these tools at my disposal at once. It was like having a great critique partner or teacher–and not just anyone, but the well-known editor Cheryl Klein–in the room with me as she walked me through examples by authors whose work I admire, showing me what I needed to look for in my own work. From the macro to the micro, this book spoke to me about where to focus my revision.
While not a workbook in the traditional sense–like Donald Maass’ WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK–this book contains real how-to information that writers can immediately apply to their own WIPs. I was personally only a few chapters into the book when I began to scribble my notes on the sides of the pages. My scribbles increased as I progressed. My notes weren’t about the text I was reading in the abstract, but about my own manuscript, for example:
What is the point? (Great question!) *scribble, scribble*
What are the main character’s flaws? *more scribbles*
What are the Escalating or Complicating Events? *scribbles running on to next page*
SECOND SIGHT might not be the best first book about craft to read. It does assume that its readers have some basic knowledge about the novel-writing process. Also, it’s probably most helpful to those who already have a completed draft, who are looking for techniques to revise and improve it. I’ve already found it to be a great help, and I’m sure I’ll be referring to it again and again for future writing!