I’ve been feeling a little down about writing stuff for the last few days. Not a big deal, and that’s the not point of this post. But to state it simply, I was looking over my WIP folder and everything there seemed like crap. And then I started thinking about some novels I started and just got overwhelmed. And then I started feeling bad that I hadn’t finished a book in a long, long time.
But then I remembered that I did finish a book.
I even pitched it at the RMFW Colorado Gold Conference. The agent I pitched to told me a whole bunch of things that
were wrong needed work, most of which I already assumed, and all that I agreed with, so I filed it away and pretty much forgot about it.
But you know what? It’s not a bad manuscript. I mean, it’s got a decent storyline, the pacing seems okay, there’s a fair amount of drama and conflict between the characters.
So what’s wrong?
Well, for starters, it’s got two main protagonists, and at least six POV characters. And it’s only about 51,000 words. Holy Fudgesicles is 54,000, which is fine considering it’s a first person YA novel, but for a novel with as much going on as this one has, it’s WAY too short. It should probably be in the 75-80k range.
So length is definitely a problem. Now I know the “golden rule” of revision is cut. Cut cut cut cut cut cut cut, if you listen to what the kids on twitter say. But that’s not always the case.
In my case, the real problem with this novel isn’t that it doesn’t have “enough words.” The word count is a symptom of the two real problems.
- Inadequate character development.
- Inadequate world-building.
I think if I worked on resolving this two major problems, the word count increase would take care of itself.
So let’s take a quick look at what’s wrong with the characters and the world.
On the surface, the character development isn’t that bad. We’ve got six teens, each with their own personalities, interests, and use of language. So I don’t have a problem with generic, interchangeable characters. The problem lies a little deeper than that.
I have very little backstory for the main characters. I know a lot of the backstory doesn’t need to show up in the actual finished product, but it helps to have it written out somewhere because what the author knows about the characters–even if it’s things the reader will never see–will help bring the characters to life.
I can work on that. There’s other things with the main characters too. Some consistency issues (Would that character really say that? Or do that?) I can fix those types of problems too.
And there are some scenes I could add as well. I like the plot, but there probably isn’t enough conflict. I could throw in a few more subplot to add conflict or challenges to the characters. That would also help them develop.
But these are minor. The largest character problem I have isn’t related to the protagonists at all. It’s my bad guy.
To put it mildly: He sucks.
In other words, he’s boring. He’s evil just for the sake of being evil. I really don’t have any reason for him to exist, and he has no background whatsoever. I’m not really even sure why he’s in the story, other than to fill the role of the bad guy.
So the majority of the work in this next set of revisions will be spent on the main villain. If done properly, it should be fun.
And as for the setting. Yes, it’s not developed very well. Writing detailed descriptions is definitely one of my weakest areas as a writer. I think all I can really do is look for areas where I’m doing too much telling and try to rewrite them from the eyes of the characters. And try to not rely so much on physical descriptions. “Other worlds” have things that will produce smells, sounds, and even tastes, correct?
Since I’m not always very confident in my descriptions, it’s probably a good idea to have some critique partners for this as well.
Anyhow, I’d like to close out this post by quickly sharing how I’m going about doing this revision, because I’m trying something I haven’t tried before.
Since I’m already reading through the book, I’m going to use the Scrivener novel templates, and copy each section to Scrivener. It’s a great tool for a new project, so let’s see how it works on an existing project. But that’s not all. As each character is introduced, I’m filling out a detailed character profile sheet too.
My hope here is that this will help me find any plot holes and inconsistencies (I wrote the first draft way before I believed in outlining or pre-writing) and also doing this with the characters will help make them better developed “real” people.
And as for my boring bad guy, I’m going to do something I’ve really never tried before, and that’s write a short story about him. A short story I never plan to share, but one that will give me his story. Who is he? Why is he here? And what does he want?
And if any of this goes anywhere, hopefully I can start pitching this thing by the end of the year 🙂
What’s your revision process? Does mine sound like it will work, or do you have a better suggestion? Leave a comment and let us know!