Revising Fiction – Review

revising fictionRevising Fiction: Making Sense of the Madness: The Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Self Editing is one of the most useful books on writing that I’ve ever read. Though titularly about revision, the book would also be very helpful to someone just starting into a novel, whether it’s their first attempt or one of many tries.

The author, Kirt Hickman, divides writing into its many aspects and then touches on each one with clarity and useful hints. His voice and perspective are fresh and lively, and he writes with the authority of someone who’s published, but without the stifling assuredness that some well-known authors bring to their how-to books.

One of the things that I really like about Revising Fiction, is the way the author includes prompts, exercises, and worksheets. To be honest, it took me forever to get all the way through the book because of this. I kept stopping to do the worksheets or the exercises, and I’d get halfway through one and then be too busy to properly finish it. Then, I’d feel like I needed to finish it before I moved on to the next chapter. Though this sounds negative, it’s actually an indicator of how useful the worksheets and exercises really were. I’m the kind of person who won’t put the effort into that kind of thing unless I can see immediately that something’s going to be helpful.

I think my favorite exercise came from his chapter on plot and the mythic journey structure. It involved creating a chart with characters running along the top and plot events running down the side. Then, in each square where a character’s column intersected with a plot event’s row, I had to write the impact that the plot had on the character. Doing this for the three main heroes and the two villain characters really let me see where my character arcs needed work, and where I could let the plot be influenced more by the characters than the other way around. I’m still working out how to apply everything I’ve figured out from this.

I’d love to show off the chart, but I lost it when my computer died (the second time in two months, alas). I mean to recreate it even though it was a lot of work to put together. It’s just so useful that it’s worth it.

When I mentioned earlier that I thought this book could be useful to folks who were just starting on their novel, one of the things I meant was his technique of doing scene cards. Now that I’m revising, I really wish that I’d been doing this the whole time because those cards would be really useful to have. As is, I made notes on card about things that I wanted to go back and fix or change once I’d finished the first draft, but putting those cards into a useful order was hard. If I’d created the scene cards as I went, I could have organized my notes that way. I’ve now done the first few chapters in scene cards and it’s been nice to lay them out and look at the way things are progressing. I mean to finish doing this and to use it as I continue on turning my manuscript into the second and then third drafts.

There are many more helpful ways of organizing and executing the revision process, and a lot of chapters toward the end that could help someone just starting out to keep from making a lot of mechanical and stylistic problems for themselves as they go. I really recommend this book for prospective and experienced writers alike.

I give it five owls

five owls_dark


~ by lamichaud on October 30, 2013.

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