It’s true, you can fix a lot in revision. I am working on a case in point. I have a lot of work to do on the novel and I know that I need to fix several things before I can publish it. That’s why we call the rough draft rough. It gets the story down. Think of it as a piece of carved wood furniture. The initial cut of the carved portions are sharp and rough. It takes a lot of sanding to smooth the angles into graceful curves. That is what revising a rough draft is. It’s taking the parts that should be smooth and making them smooth. I’ve carved the story. Now I have to sand it into a smooth whole.
I started by reading the piece through and making notes on what I meant with each scene. I also made some decisions on placement. Then I got out my rough grit sandpaper because this first part is the rough sanding, where you decide whether you really need this scene or that one. Maybe the scene works better earlier or later in the story. you move whole blocks of text around. Then you move down to more fine grit sandpaper to some the roughness a bit more. That’s dealing with smaller blocks of text. Then you go to the finest grit possible, that’s when you begin working with sentences rather than blocks of text. In my current novel, I’m not to that point yet. I am still at the medium grit sandpaper stage. I’m sanding the roughness out of the plot, smoothing its lines refining twists and turns. That’s a long stage in this particular work. It’s moving, but slowly. Once I get this one done, I’ll be reading the work over and making notes. Then I will start the fine detailed sanding, the polishing stage.
That’s where you read each sentence and decide if it should be changed, moved, or left alone. If you’ve sanded it correctly in the earlier stages, you will have more that you simply leave alone. However, there will be places where you will change the sentence. Maybe you can make your meaning a little clearer, or you can increase tension by changing a word here or there. This is a painstaking process and you shouldn’t rush it.
Taking your time with the revision makes your work better. That’s not to say that you can’t overdo it. Humans can overdo anything if they set their minds to it. The same is true with the fine grit polishing of your piece. You have to go through it once, let someone else read it and tell you it looks good. If they are confused about something, go back and polish it, but don’t keep doing it forever. You’ll never publish your work if you do that. You need to choose a deadline and when that deadline arrives, assess your work. Do you feel it can go off into the world? Then let it go. You’ll be glad you did.
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