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To write is human, to revise is divine…*

* That’s just a little twist on the famous Stephen King quote: “To write is human, to edit is divine.”

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’m currently doing Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel course (HTRYN). For those of you unfamiliar with HTRYN, it’s an amazing (and incredibly intense) 22 week course which guides you through the revision process. I’m loving every minute of it, which is no surprise really since it’s just like being back at school (and anyone who knows me, knows I love school). There’s lots of reading and lots of worksheets to do – my idea of heaven!

HTRYN is divided into three parts:

  1. Triage (Lessons 1 – 8) – where you get to know your manuscript inside out, flaws and all;
  2. Major Surgery (Lessons 9 – 17) – where you learn how to cut your manuscript and do block revision; and
  3. Cosmetic Surgery (Lessons 18 – 22) – where you focus on all of the surface stuff, like line editing, and perfecting dialogue, description and flow.

I’m nearing the end of Lesson 7 now – I should be done in two more days, and then I’ll get to move on to Lesson 8. I can’t wait! Lesson 8 is the final lesson of Triage, which means finally I’ll be able to start Major Surgery! Yay!

I have to say, the hardest part about HTRYN is waiting. I only get access to one new lesson a week, so I can’t skip ahead, but I’m dying to dive in and make all the changes I want to make (I have a whole list of them – several pages worth)! If it were up to me, I’d be cutting and revising and rewriting right now! I know in this case though, patience really is virtue. I’ve never revised a novel before so I need to learn as much about the process as I can. And even though I’m spending a lot of time on the process right now, I know the next time I revise, it will only take me a fraction of the time – because everything I learn now will be firmly ensconced in my mind the next time I write.

My revision notes so far - getting as big as my manuscript!

My revision notes so far – getting as big as my manuscript!

I have to say though, I’m very glad I’m not a pantser – by pantser I mean the kind of writer who writes without a plan and just jumps in, letting the story guide them (ie. writes by the seat of their pants). Because I plotted my WIP in a very detailed, precise manner before I even started typing words onto the screen, my manuscript is in pretty good condition. There aren’t many superfluous scenes or storylines that go nowhere – pretty much everything in my WIP was put there for a reason. So the work I have to do during revision is not as full-on as it is for some writers who just wrote like crazy and are now left to plough through all the excess dirt to get to the gold. Pretty much what I’m doing is locating scenes and parts of scenes that need improvement and finding little unrelated things tucked here and there throughout the book that can be tied together to give the story more depth.

It’s a fun process, and one which warms me every now and then with little flames of enlightenment. For example, back during Lesson 4 when I was working on my plot and subplots, I discovered the underlying theme of my story:

Finding strength and power in oneself to do what you want to do, and be who you want to be – not just do what (or be who) you think everyone expects you to do (or be).

This realization blew me away! I hadn’t even known it had slipped into my story yet it reflected the same struggle I’d faced when making the decision to drop law and pursue a career as a writer – a  decision which, if it had been made any other way, might have resulted in the story never even having been written!

It sure is funny how the subconscious works.

Anyways, if I want to finish Triage, I’d better get back to it. Time waits for no one, and manuscripts certainly don’t revise themselves on their own.

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