13 Aug

To Revise or Not to Revise

I am facing a difficult revision, not because I don’t know what needs to be done or that I can’t do it. It’s just that I’m not sure I agree with the critiquer wholeheartedly.

A novel revision has all sorts of questions attached:
Who are you revising for? One certain reader/editor? To connect with readers better?
For yourself? To become a perfect model book?

The critique of the manuscript was thorough and opinionated. I liked that. Here are some of their thoughts, which just represent one opinion:

  • The theme being too didactic and preachy.
  • The structure seems off: a major plot point takes place at the midpoint, but the critiquer suggested it should be at the end of Act 1 instead. That would also take care of pacing problem in the first half of the novel. That would mean I need an totally new Act 2.
  • Characterization needs to be beefed up.
  • The story line includes a curse; once under the curse the main character has difficulty distinguishing reality from fiction. The critiquer says SHE had trouble keeping things straight, too.

All of this sounds reasonable to me, until I start to write. Then I realize that I put that major plot point midway through the novel for good structural reasons. If I cut a lot and move it to the end of Act 1, well, what will I do for Act 2. It means a totally new story.

Who am I revising for? A reader who has an opinion, but do I agree with that opinion?

I agree that the characterization needs work. No problem there.
I am revising for the reader to make this work better.

If the critiquer had problems keeping things straight, that is a valid reader-concern. Clarity should rule for the reader, even when the main character is totally confused. I agree. I will revise for the reader.

The main question remains: reorganize the Acts/structure of the story and write a totally new Act 2. Who am I revising for?

5 thoughts on “To Revise or Not to Revise

  1. I sympathize, as I sit here awaiting my first ever critique on my first ever novel. I do hope you’ll keep us updated as to what you finally decide to do, and why. I’m intrigued by your character with the curse who has trouble distinguishing reality… that is quite an interesting writing challenge. One I have no doubt you are more than up to!

  2. This is always a dilemma. One of my writing teachers reminded us that we have to be true to our story, that it is our story and only we can know how it is supposed to be. That said, I agree that clarity is paramount, so that kind of feedback is invaluable. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

  3. You are revising for the soul of your book. If, when you lay aside what you want and begin to consider what the book needs, you will have a solid foundation for accepting, or rejecting, the critiquer’s advice.

    And damn, that’s hard. That’s the hardest thing a writer does.

  4. I have had numerous critiques from professional editors, online unknowns, and my target audience which is middle grade, age 9-12 (This last group can be brutally honest). I let my critiques sit for a few days, letting me return to them when I am ready. Time seems to calm by reaction and I can react less emotionally to what they are saying.

    Most of the time, their comments have served to improve my writing, story telling etc. But I also have final say. I wouldn’t take one critique as the impetus to change the flow of the story. If I do hear the same thing from several sources, then I rewrite.

  5. I’ve just had my first critique too, and I’m facing similar questions with my manuscript. But having just re-read it after leaving it for a month, I can see that the critique is spot on I know she’s pushing me tell my story, to make it better, to question, to tweak, to challenge the stuff that could go further, which I’m grateful for. Telling your story is key, and being honest with the how’s what’s and wherefore’s is imperative. But if its not clear, if there’s a disconnect between reader and author, it’ll be pretty difficult, to share that story.
    You have the final cut.

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