Revising is a strange beast. When I revised my first novel, The Path of Mages, I ended up rewriting about 40% of it because it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. It wasn’t planned carefully enough, and the details that I wanted to be present were not. Some of the characterization was wrong. Some of the settings were flat. Some of the action wasn’t exciting enough. Needless to say, there was a lot of work involved and it took me just as long to revise the book as it did to write it. Some days, I still feel like revising it further. Not the most efficient of my achievements. :S
I begin revising my second novel, The Dawn of Mages, two weeks ago, and something strange happened: I assumed that I would need to rewrite most of it as I did my first novel. So I would get to a passage, read it, and say: “Is the meaning of this scene clear? Is this as visual as I envisioned it to be? Are the characters right?” I wanted to make sure that everything was in place and reflected the planning I had done with the book.
I started rewriting sentences. I didn’t read, I just rewrote.
Here’s an example of some original (not revised) text from chapter one:
“As fast as he could, Sion reached out his arms and pulled streams of air into a giant loop and wrapped them around Dien’s giant legs like a rope, more and more until the giant seemed to stumble.”
I was alright with this, but it wasn’t articulated as clearly and as concisely as I wanted it to be. So I revised it as follows:
“Sion threw out his arms and cast thick ropes of air in loops around the giant’s legs. He squeezed them tighter and tighter, restricting Dien’s movement until he seemed to stumble. Then a correctly aimed hammer of air into the back of Dien’s knee sent the Great Mage tumbling over with arms flailing like giant windmills.”
Notice how I added a few extra details about the knee? It came naturally–how else would Sion take down a giant? I wanted to make sure that the details were there to make the experience more visual and complete.
Then I continued reading down the page and I came across the remainder of the original passage (in blue):
“As fast as he could, Sion reached out his arms and pulled streams of air into a giant loop and wrapped them around Dien’s giant legs like a rope, more and more until the giant seemed to stumble. There was a loud grumble as the Great Mage looked down with a frown, but by then, Sion had already made the largest air hammer he’d ever cast and sent it pounding into the back of Dien’s giant kneecaps.”
Take a look at that. The details that I had added in revising the passage had already existed in the original! The articulation was still wordy, but the idea was there without the need for me to rewrite it. If I had stopped myself from revising right away, I could have read the entire passage and spent less time correcting it rather than trying to write in the newer details.
That same scenario happened half a dozen times as I revised the first chapter.
So what have I learned? One: revising should begin with reading first and writing second. In fact, it’s kinda fun to read something that I’ve written and enjoy it for what it is rather than analyzing it (like I do with everything). And what else did I learn? It feels really nice to impress yourself every once and a while. :D