When you revise your novel or story do you look at what you wrote before or start totally from scratch?
Revise Previous Text
Usually, I’ll work with the text that I already have written. The idea here is that I’m close, but it isn’t quite there yet. In this case, I’m refining the text and story as I go. The story gets minor improvements in specificity with more Show-don’t-Tell sensory details. Or, the pace is quickened or varied more. The text itself is revised to eliminate extraneous words, while listening carefully for the rhythms of the paragraphs, the exactness of word choice — in short, for voice.
Keep the Idea, but not the Words
The revision I’m doing currently is a drastic revision of a story. A reader liked my story line, but not the voice of the piece. I’m not sure I agree that the voice is in need of improvement. But I’m always willing to experiment.
In this case, I’ve written out one sentence for each major scene. Now I’ll put away the old draft and re-envision the story. I’ll start by writing ten different openings. Hopefully, number six or seven or eight or so will jump start a totally new voice. I also expect the story itself to change, because voice dictates so much about pacing and events in a story. But it’s a good place to start. I also expect to do a good many of the previous kind of revision before this story comes together with its new voice.
Of the two, I think the hardest revision is to keep the idea and search for a new voice, a new way of telling the story. But all writing is a risk. Who knows if this new approach will work? But ya gotta try.