Thursday, January 26, 2012

Five tips for revising your novel.

1. Write a synopsis of the novel-- the whole thing. There are two good ways to do this, for the purposes of this exercise: one is to reread the novel and jot down notes as you go about what needs to go in the synopsis. The other technique is essentially the opposite: write a synopsis of the novel without rereading. Is every chapter of the work present and accounted for? Does anything jump out at you, structurally or otherwise? How many walks at the beach/the woods/the streets of Manhattan does your main character take?

2. Read the novel aloud. The whole thing. You can find someone to read it to or just read it to yourself, but it really does need to be read out loud. I always find sentences I trip over by using this technique, which is a pretty sure sign that the phrasing in that bit could use some fine-tuning.

3. Similar to #1, but suitable for more "visual" people: create a storyboard. Does too much of the action take place in one location? Does the story jump around too much? How's the flow from one scene to another?

4. Make a list of all your characters' names. Most writers, if they've chosen character names they like, will unconsciously return to the same set of sounds (phoneme set? I never took linguistics, and don't know enough about the terminology to effectively look this up) over and over again. So you get novels that include characters named Jessica, Erica, Annika, Veronica, and Monica. Morgan, Aidan, Evan, Damien. If the names are too similar, it's hard for your readers to tell the characters apart. (Watch out for recurring first letters, too-- the "J" is especially common in my experience.) Time to do some renaming. On the plus side: if you decide to have a(nother) kid, you've got a starter list of possible baby names. So there you go.

5. Print out a hard copy and go through with a highlighter, marking all the dialogue tags. Are there too many? Not enough? How flowery do they get? If a writer uses dialogue tags like "exclaimed" too frequently, it tends to be a sign that they're not very confident that the emotion behind the character's statement is effectively communicated. If this sounds like you, and if you're right to be concerned, it's the dialogue itself that really needs work.


Alvania Scarborough said...

Excellent advice! I hadn't thought to highlight just the dialogue tags but will start. On reading aloud - if you have a hard time reading it aloud (like I do), consider giving Word's Text to Speech function a try. Not perfect but still pretty good for hearing the flow of the words.


Christine Tyler said...

Ahaha, #4.

I was about to say, "Well, that's not that bad. Tolkien sure did it with arwen/eowyn/eomer/aragorn, and saruman/sauran." But then I was like, "...and everyone messes them up, don't they?"

So just because a genius or two got away with it, doesn't mean it's the best idea.