Today we will talk about the bane of all of our entire existences. Yes, throughout the multiverse, including Earths A through Z and as many numbers as you can count, our writerly existences have been baned.
By what, you may ask?
Well, as you’ve probably guessed by now, the bane is the dreaded third level of revision: Global Revision.
Now, fellow writers, so far we have covered two forms of revision.
1. Micro Revision, which involves vetting and changing small details, such as word choice, syntax, images, etc. Basically, you’re looking at the text of your manuscript as though it’s a poem rather than a novel. The concern here is with the moment-to-moment experience of the reader.
2. Macro Revision, which involves writing new scenes, rewriting scenes to fix problems with continuity and or character, conflating characters, and expanding on scenes that are only hinted at.
Micro and macro revision both also involve cutting, a step I seem to have glossed over. I tend towards the writing too little side of the scale than the writing too much which is why I have so much focus on expanding. But even so, there are places where the text, having been considered in the sober light of day, does nothing for the overall story, no matter how beautiful and/or interesting it is. In most cases, the novel’s story would be better off with the extraneous section cut.
Okay, that’s what we’ve covered so far. It all seems very manageable, no? Time-consuming maybe. Tiresome, yes, at times. But manageable.
Global revision, as you might expect from its name, is by definition not manageable. This sort of revision is like attempting to take over the world which, if you’ve played Risk, you know is a long and involved process and before you’ve fully solidified your grip, all the other players will have gone home, leaving you alone, rolling dice against yourself.
Here’s the difference between macro and global revision, and I admit the line isn’t finely drawn (perhaps because I’ve made these categories up on the fly):
An example of macro revision would be changing a main character’s name. Although the change is small, it’s macro rather than micro because it affects the novel as a whole.
An example of global revision would be changing the point of view, whether that means going from third person to first person, or changing who is telling the story (instead of Hamlet, it’s Ophelia, which, to be sure, really cuts down on the overall length of the play).
The first example involves a decisive change, but one that’s relatively easy to accomplish.
The second example involves a decisive change that requires you to, essentially, write a brand new novel.
Yes, the framework is already there. And, yes, the events are already laid out for you.
But what happens when you change the point of view is that you have to reevaluate that framework and you might (and probably will) discover that the events you had in place before have a different meaning with the new point of view, or, more drastically, are unnecessary altogether.
Because if you tell Hamlet through Ophelia’s eyes, you’re no longer telling Hamlet, you’re telling Ophelia. And Ophelia, while not being written by Wm. Shakespeare, is in addition probably not filled with the same philosophical arguments as Hamlet, and definitely isn’t populated with the same events, because Ophelia is a person with different concerns, different fears, different needs, and though she’s experiencing, in general, the same events, she interprets those event in a drastically different way.
All global revisions involve a fundamental meddling with the novel as a whole.
And, often, novels need such drastic restructuring.
And, often, such reimaginings can be exhilarating, brewing new excitement in you for a project you’d thought was played out.
But it’s not a gift I’d wish on anyone.
[So what are we going to do tonight, Andrew? –ed.]
Try to take over the… um… revise our novel.