Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Final Stretch

by Hannah Roveto

Really, truly. I know how grateful you are that my posts do not consist of progress reports: I'm editing. I'm revising. Still revising. Yup, editing. Still, I have to tell you this week, I believe myself to be in the final stretch. How do I know?

Tess Gerritsen did a post a year ago on her revision process. Of all the interviews and posts ever written on this topic, this one I saved. Every so often, I find it, scan it, compare my progress against her words. As I did just last week:

First, make the plot hang together. Make the story's set up match the story's resolution. I have gone back over my own WIP, and made sure it all connects. As character motives shifted, so did plot, and I had to go back through and redo quite a bit. You'd think after two (much-worked-over) drafts, I'd have known them, but sometimes three's the charm, apparently (or four, five...)!

Second, refine and deepen the characters. With those crystallized character motives have come insights into behavior that change first appearances on the page to small quirks in certain situations. Check, again.

Third, heighten the poetry. Gerritsen notes that some people think fiction -- and mystery -- is not in need of poetry. For the record, even humorous fiction is all the better for a little poetry in its presentation.

Fourth, clean up all the inconsistencies. Funny how my antagonist's last name was one thing at the start, something else halfway through. Did he meet with the old woman in March or April? Appearance details, timelines, everything has been doublechecked.

Fifth, reorder the scenes to heighten the tension. Gerritsen writes each subplot start to finish, then weaves them together in the second or third draft. I don't, although maybe it would have streamlined my progress, who's to know? Still, I have done exactly that, shifting scenes so the characters are shown a certain way at key points and the plot is pushed to (I hope!) up the stakes.

Sixth, figure out chapter breaks. I thought I had, but going back through now, I am realizing they are not where they should be. Thus, I am merging a couple of chapters together and considering breaking one apart. After that, well, I'm feeling quite good about it!

Certainly I'm not relying solely on Tess' words to measure how far along I have come. It struck me, though, this time when I found the post and read through, I was able to check each piece off. Tasks one through five: done; task six, on its way. As am I, I believe, at last. So let me toss this out, to those of you revising Novel One, or Novel Three, or Novel Five, do these steps ring true for you as well? Any others would you add? I am all ears!


Lisa Marnell said...


Hannah, I can't wait for your writing to put a smile on people's faces. It is so unique and pretty darn clever, too!

Trish Ryan said...

Good for you! It's so amazing to hear from writers who have created a system for revising. As much as writing is a creative process, there's some science to it in the latter stages. I'm so glad we don't have to reinvent those particular wheels!

Rock on with task six!

Amy MacKinnon said...

I can't WAIT to read it, Hannah!!!

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...


Great post and huge congrats! So looking forward to reading. Yeah!


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Advice is always future tense, isn't it? You should do this, you will do that. At this moment, am loving reading advice as past tense checklist (nearly complete!). Halleleujah!


Lisa said...

I just bookmarked this post -- it's a keeper. I also love your observation that advice is always future tense. Congratulations on hitting the home stretch!

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Thank you -- and definitely bookmark Tess Gerritsen's original. Funny how differently we all work, and yet its those structural issues that are both most important and bring us to common ground. As you note, Trish, when one person puts a system out there, it's gold for the rest of us coming up!