No matter how crucial a scene may be to your plot, if it makes you go “ick”, don’t lead with it.
It seems obvious to me after it was pointed out, but at the time of writing and revising a particular story, it made sense to start at the “beginning”, even though I always found myself thinking and wanting to tell people, “Just wait until you get to Chapter Two. Chapter One’s not really how the story’s going to continue; it’s just establishing the start of the protagonist’s character arc.” Yeah. Lesson learnt.
Start with the first of your good bits (we’ll call this the “Just Wait Until... Point” or JWUP). These days of instant gratification and high-speed everything, an author has much less time than ever before to hook a reader. That doesn’t mean you should start in media res without orienting the reader first. The difference nowadays is that your orientation (a view of the characters’ “normal” before everything changes) can and should only be a few paragraphs at the most. The inciting incident, which needs to be compelling, must occur in the first page or two, or you risk being put down.
There’s an easy (“easy”) fix way to judge this for yourself: if your Amazon Look Inside sample breaks before it gets to the JWUP, cut your beginning until the break happens immediately after the JWUP.
I'm in the revision phase of my middle grade fantasy novel. I love this part. Revision is layering. It's the search for symbolism and metaphor and meaning. It's digging into the richness of what I've written and discovering that my planning and outlining paid off when I allowed the writing of the first draft to flow organically.
This book stumped me for a while in the search for its theme. Almost unbelievably, it was staring me right in the face. I had to change two characters to find it, but the wealth of additional subtext that opened up was so worth the extra work. It forms part of one of the book's twists, so I don't want to reveal too much, but the main theme is "taking responsibility for what you create" - very apt for me right now, on many levels from my writing to raising my children. Last year was a hard one, parenting-wise, and my son and I need to do some revision on our relationship this year, too. Continue reading Revisions
There is now a "lite" version of the "How to Revise Your Novel" Workshop available for only $5. This is a complete revision programme; not a teaser. It was created by an author who was offered an opportunity to submit her novel to fit an unexpected open slot in a publisher's line-up... with the catch that the deadline for the completed manuscript was the following week. She did it: revised an entire novel in a week. She's put together everything she learnt about revising the hard way, with the good news that you can take as much time as you need to do your own revision. If you don't know where to start revising here is a handy guide to getting through the process.
(Note that the sign up site will push you twice to consider the full How to Revise Your Novel workshop. If you only want the $5 Lite course, just click "No thanks" each time and it will redirect you. You can always upgrade later if you want to.)
I'm now doing a Novel Revision course in parallel to the Writing Career Course. While the Writing Career course is helping in places, the novel I need to fix is completed so this makes much more sense.
The other novel (now that I have been able to see how to convert this into the first part of a standalone novel), although complete in itself, now needs some editing to allow the other two story strands to fit into this book. So, for this project, I'm using both the revision process and the writing process. I can also see how this revision process could be helpful for restarting my stalled science fiction novel.