I just finished Spirit of Orn (woohoo!) and now it's time for the gritty 300-esque montage of Mechanical and Structural editing. I'm thinking about doing a series on ways to make these types of editing processes go by faster, or at least be carried out with some efficiency, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, I will say that I faced my most challenging moments in the final pages of the third revision, and I wanted to talk about why this is.
You see, when it comes to adding to existing projects it's really burdensome because what you are doing is actively entering in to something that was written months before and then taking current writing and meshing it all together. This is troublesome because, as writers we are always improving our craft, and there are always new ways to approach older sections of dialogue. So a compromise must be met between what was written before, and what is to be written later on. Otherwise you will be trapped in the cycle of continual revision.
What I try to do to make this easier is prioritizing the changes and editing as so:
1. Implement New Plot - Even if you have to erase whole chunks of dialogue, do what needs to be done. You can't have old dialogue side-by-side with new material that follows new continuity. It'll sound jarring and cliche.
2. Assume Your Voice - Each character in project additions will have changed tremendously since your previous draft. Make sure the character personalities are consistent.
3. Mesh With Earlier Drafts - This is your last priority because you want your story to have all of the bases covered before salvaging old material. In Spirit Of Orn I noticed that it was character dialogue in traveling sections that I least had to worry about. "Quirk" moments are easily retained.
Here's an example of how to do this:
General Tamberlain placed the cold binoculars to his face, chilling the heat of his brow. In the distance the artillery fired, the dull pops echoing across the battlefield. There would be blood very soon. The deep trenches would fill up to the knees, and his brethren would die.
If he wished one thing, it would be to return home, to see the winter sunlight pierce the clouds of the arctic wastes. Only then would he be happy. No, this would not happen though. He was certain of it. The dark tides of war had shifted. He would die this day.If I were to change the "plot" of this short narrative what could I do? Plot, when distilled down to it's basic components, becomes a collection of verbs, actions that motivate the story. Everything else here is adjectives and modifiers in function. So separating this out would look like this:
Plot: General Tamberlain placed the cold binoculars to his face / dark tides of war had shifted / He would die this day.
Adjective: artillery fired / deep trenches would fill up to the knees / winter sunlight pierce the clouds of the arctic wastes
Modifyer: There would be blood / brethren would die / then would he be happy / this would not happen thoughI can retain pretty much all original dialogue if I replace just the highlighted stuff. Here you can see that Tamberlain is assessing, realizing, and coping with his death. The binoculars show him "arriving" at a situation. Without added detail, the change in power assumes that he was betrayed, or let down. Finally the anticipated death seals his fate. If I were to "revise" his fate this is what it would look like:
General Tamberlain raised the glass of water to his forehead, chilling the heat of his brow. In the distance the artillery fired, the dull pops echoing across the battlefield. There would be blood very soon. The deep trenches would fill up to the knees, and his brethren would die.
If he wished one thing, it would be to return home, to see the winter sunlight pierce the clouds of the arctic wastes. Only then would he be happy. No, this would not happen though. He was certain of it. Command required him at Storm Base Alpha for new recruits. He wouldn't see Johannesburg for two more years.See? Pretty cool, huh?
I gave you here two lessons, now that I think about it... If you enjoyed it though share it around and tell your friends. I've been getting a lot of questions recently following my last Sequart article. Check it out!