I’m currently knee-deep in revising a romantic high fantasy with a gothic bent. When I wrote the thing, I did it in a binge of writing over the month of October (appropriate for the gothic feel to it), and it was an impromptu, one-woman NaNoWriMo. I had this thing from the get-go shaped in my mind. I knew most of the characters, the arc of the story, and the parts I couldn’t wait to write. As a bonus, the transitions (where I get from one of those “candy bar” scenes to another) I promised myself I would just ignore (one of my challenges is to get better with transitions–to keep them from becoming pointless filler scenes that dilute my story) in favor of scene or chapter breaks. And wouldn’t you know it, the story spun itself out and it was all my fingers could do to keep up with it. I was just along for the ride. I love drafts like that.
Fast-forward now, to when the keyboard’s cooled and I am still thrilled with all those thrilling parts, but the time and distance have shown me that while completed, it’s still not done. And there’s so much more I want to add to it. So much that didn’t make it in that first, heated thrill-ride of a draft. But what needs to be fixed? What needs to be expanded on, and how in the world do I do it? Most every book on revision gives me guidelines on copy-editing, or structuring scenes in the manner that lets a writer take something already built out completely, and tweaking it to be cleaner and leaner. In all my years of collecting writing guidebooks, I haven’t yet come across a definitive work that shows me how to revise storytelling.
Until Holly Lisle.
This is the part where I gush like a fangirl over her course. How To Revise Your Novel is, without a doubt, the most thorough way of revising a story from a complete picture that I have ever come across, be it in book form, workshop form, or what have you. I could fumble my way through a storytelling revision, then use a series of different books around storycrafting and writing to look for problems or backfill plot holes, but nothing that could help me go through this process in a complete, coherent, single systemic way until HTRYN.
I’ll be up-front. This course is not easy. It takes time to learn the techniques. I’m still plowing through it on my first pass-through, and even with a book that I felt was pretty salvageable, I’m still having a lot of “holy crap this thing is wrecked and I am screwed!” moments. These do pass, and life goes on, as does revision. (I’ll also be up front and note that my links are “affiliate” links, so if you click and sign up through there, I get a credit)
The course itself is broken down into three big chunks. There’s comprehensive triage–no fixing, just identifying all your problems. Then there’s problem-solving–again, no fixing, just identifying how you would fix those problems. Then there’s actual surgery from start to finish–cutting, excising, grafting, replacing, and stitching it all back together and smoothing over the scar tissue.
I know writers who are good friends of mine who rarely need to revise. I have ever hoped I’d be one of those writers, but time and experience are showing me that just ain’t so. But the side benefit to that is that revision, especially through this course, gives me a unique and penetrating insight to the sinew and bones of my story, especially the unconscious stuff I didn’t even realize I put in. Quite frankly, in fifteen years of writing, I’d rank this course above the ones I got in college. This one gives me more.