First draft of novel complete! How does this revision thing work?

Less than a week ago, I *finally* finished the first draft of my first complete novel. I’m still feeling a bit ecstatic and can’t quite believe it’s actually done–sort of like I felt those first few weeks of 2009 every time I heard the words “President Obama.” Clocking in at 466 pages (128,000 words), it’s easily the longest piece of writing I’ve ever completed–even including the theses for my undergrad and graduate degrees and several ridiculously long federal grant applications.

My fab writing group gave me their crits of the last chapter a few days ago, which, as always, had the perfect combination of kudos and helpful feedback for improvement. Soon I have to embark on revising the novel, a somewhat overwhelming prospect. At a cursory glance, some of the things I have to do include:

  • Consolidate two characters into one
  • Completely eliminate one character that I thought I’d need in the first 6 or 7 chapters, then realized I didn’t, at which point he abruptly disappeared
  • Make consistent the gender of a character who changed sex midway through the novel (but is neither transgender-identified nor belongs to an alien species for whom sex variation is a standard biological feature)
  • Fix various world-building details that only became clear later in the novel
  • Tighten and strengthen the Earth sub-plot
  • Tighten and strenghten the outer-space primary plot
  • Cut 10,000-25,000 words overall
  • Strengthen characterization, particularly for four key characters
  • Improve use of sensory detail throughout
  • Strengthen prose throughout

Other than that, though, it’s ready to go!

I will soon be reading a triptych of books on writing and revising to get some advice from the masters as I work my way through the revisions. (LeGuin, King, McCloud) Revising tips from my fellow writers are welcome – please feel free to share!

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4 thoughts on “First draft of novel complete! How does this revision thing work?

  1. Thanks, Peter, this is great. Not surprising that she would have some brilliant revising tips. I have so many line edits from my writing group, I have the temptation to do the relatively simple task of inputting those changes rather than tackling some of the bigger structural stuff first – a temptation I must resist!

  2. Ben, that’s a great milestone! I’m deep in the Revision Swamp myself. Remember the Fairy Trap at Taos Toolbox? –Debbie

  3. Thanks, Debbie. Of course I remember the Fairy Trap – I loved the chapters I read from it and have been eagerly awaiting the full novel! Hopefully we’ll both find our way through the revision swamp…

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