Production Log: Revision 102

In the second of our short talks (Thank you, Anne Carson!) on revision, we will be tackling the Macro side of things.

No, you don’t need to know how to boil water and cheese, as always, is optional, but these revisions, once you complete them, will leave you feeling full and satisfied.


Because you did something.  And that something was difficult.  And that difficulty something, though hard to explain to someone who isn’t a writer and/or hasn’t ever done major revision, leaves a weariness in your body and mind as though you’ve just run a marathon.

So, the questions remains: What is Macro Revision?

Good question.  Anyone?

Okay, well, since I’m the one who created this list and so instigated the rampant confusion in everyone’s minds when they were just perfectly happy with the single idea of revision and now are straddling three peaks, trying to stretch their manuscript to cover all three, and who said writing had to be this hard?

Writing doesn’t have to be, mon frère, but revision, ah, revision is a different beast altogether.  If you’re not looking, it’ll bite your hand, your arm, swallow you up to the shoulder until your eye to eye with the beast and your only hope is to make it realize that what it’s got in its mouth is sickening and not worth the trouble to digest.

That is revision.

But enough rampant metaphor and questionable analogy.

Yesterday we talked about micro revision and how it involves detail-oriented nitpicking: fine-tuning sentences, clarifying imagery, and reining in punctuation.

But macro revision is larger than that.  It’s more worldly.  It has grand plans for the evening, and it’s dressing up, whether you like it or not, so you better dress up to if you want to have any fun.

Which is all an oblique way of saying that macro revision is all about change.  Major changes.  Changes that are significant and that you would talk to your doctor about before attempting if your novel was your medication and your revisions included changing the dosage and/or adding in Flintstones vitamins.

These changes involve adding new sections – new sentences, new paragraphs, entire new scenes.  They involve expanding upon what was only hinted at in the first draft and, if included in all its literary & life-like glory, will make the world of your novel a richer place.  They involve modifying scenes you’ve already written so that there’s a different outcome.  They involve delving into the world and highlighting all the details, writing the landscape you see so visibly in your brain so it is on the page and no longer just, in the most literal sense of the word, imaginary.

The above mostly concerns appearance which, when written, becomes the texture of your novel.  This aspect of macro revision is all about giving the world of your novel life so that it lives and breathes and runs rampant when the angry villagers come calling with torches in their hands.

But another aspect of macro revision is smoothing out the plotting problems and creating connections between events that, in the first draft, are only hinted at or wholly absent.  In this way the novel becomes a single event consisting of many disparate parts rather than many disparate parts that, if you squint and the light is just right, you can see as a cohesive whole.

For example, if you start the book off with a budding relationship, and the first chapter ends with a death, what is the connection?  The connection  doesn’t have to be cause-and-effect – and I suspect that sort of correlation wouldn’t be very satisfying – but the two events have to be related by you because they will be related in the reader’s mind.

Lastly, macro revision involves major changes in your book that don’t call for re-writing the book entire, but that do evolve/revolve/devolve it into a different beast.  Or, to be more precise, a more coherent beast.  Frankly, this is a lot like the second style of macro revision I’ve listed above, but it’s scarier.

The last few days I’ve been revising GOD’S TEETH.  I’ve done a lot of micro revision, and some macro detailing (adding new scenes), but most of my work has gone towards changing a bit-part male character to female, and making the resultant girl also the girl who opens the book liplocked with our main character.

The reasons for this change: it eliminated the introduce character & kill him off aesthetic from my first draft; it creates a lot more emotion, both for the main character and (I hope) the reader, surrounding the death of this bit character; and it focuses, for me, the fact that the main character’s struggle in this book is equally involved with his growing awareness of women as it is with his exploration of magic.

If nothing else, this sort of change gets me excited about revision because I’m seeing my book in an entirely new way.

Of course, I’m banking on there being something else.

And I’m banking on you banking on my banking there’s something else.

And somewhere, there’s a bank that is banking.

That’s it.  End of joke.  I withdraw.

(From that bank.)

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