The Unexpected in Revisions

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I am continuing to make substantive progress on the second draft of my post-apocalyptic novel, but the revision has made some unexpected turns in its path. I have been working at a pace which I believed would allow me to complete this draft by the end of the year. I was approximately two-thirds of the way through this revision and was on a decent speed to continue tightening and trimming. It seemed direct enough.
It occurred to me that this redrafting was moving a little bit too easily, that I might be missing something important. So, I reread the draft carefully, and I realized there were many pieces of the story missing. I was doing what I had frequently taught my first year writing students to try to avoid: leaving important information out because they know it; they have all the information about their topic in their minds, but the readers do not. This is so easy to do, because as the authors, we know what we are writing, but sometimes we omit important information without being aware that we are doing it.

After rereading the second draft, as it stood, I realized that I had done just that. I had completely neglected to include several chapters that I think are extremely important to the plot. Several points could not occur if certain other details are not included. As a result, I have already added 4-5 chapters, and I have planned out at least 5 more that need to be written. I find, as I continue to revise with an open and questioning mind, that there is a great deal more that needs to be included.

With the necessity to add more chapters, my goal for finishing this draft by the end of the year might have to be adjusted, but with the conclusion of the school year, I believe I can get there. Then it will be time for fresh sets of eyes to look at the book and offer critique.

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5 thoughts on “The Unexpected in Revisions

  1. I know what you mean. My writing is extremely detailed, and I catch myself always explaining things to the reader–so many “purple prose” problems I’m only just now starting to comprehend. Yet, despite my overshot word count, I had to add in several chapters in my last rewrite to fill in holes my readers pointed out. It’s weird how sometimes we’re blinded by things that should be obvious to us, because we’re so used to our own work.

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    • When I’m writing, many, many passages are like pathways, or roadmaps, or scaffolding. They take me to where I need to go, but when I get there (or figure out where “there” is), they can go. I used to begrudge them as wasted effort — if the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, why couldn’t a straight line get me there? But they’re not wasted. They’re necessary, even if I lop them off in the second or subsequent drafts.

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