When I teach Novel Revision Retreats, I need a variety of ways to explain this thing called “revision.” Lately, two ideas have helped.
Scenes: Have you Hit Bull’s Eye
When I evaluate a scene, I’m always asking myself, “Have I hit bull’s eye?”
Especially when talking about revising scenesl, a metaphor that helps me is to think of a draft as an arrow that hits a target. The first draft is way off bull’s eye. The second draft hits one ring closer to the center because you focused on selecting great scenes, revised those scenes, layered plot layers and subplots, all the while avoiding the most common pitfalls. Successive drafts should sharpen your aim, until you’re hitting in the red circle. Many stories sell successfully when they just hit that red circle in the middle; the really great stories hit smack in the middle of the bull’s eye. It’s worth that last revision to try to hit exact center.
An example: In my teen fantasy novel, The Wayfinder (now available as an ebook on Amazon or iTunes), the opening finds Winchal standing on the edge of the Great Rift. In a fatal mistake, he freezes in fear and fails to save his sister from falling. I knew that I had to mirror that scene somehow in the story’s climax. At first, I had Win standing on the Rift’s edge and he must decide if he will save his enemy. It worked, but it wasn’t Bull’s Eye. I revised the scene and this time, I put his new best friend in danger. Now the scene had the right emotional content. My editor was pleased with the revision!
It’s worth the effort to check each part of the scene to make sure you’ve hit the exact center of the Bull’s Eye!