Here I go again, advocating for revising where, experience has taught me, most of the magic happens. In fact, I use the word editing less often these days because people more often associate that with looking for typos and poor word choices. Yes, that needs done, but when I approach it with the mindset of revising I look at every line of the draft as the opportunity to take all aspects of the story to another level.
Yes, drafting is a heady experience, especially in my case, because I’m a fast drafter. It’s a marathon at a sprinter’s pace. Revising, though, is a marathon you walk. In the forest. And there are mountains. And if you step off the path you never know what you’ll find.
It’s easy for me to have this perspective—which I didn’t used to have—because revising has rewarded so many times. Yes, each pass clarifies, deepens, and tightens. It also provides me with at least one moment that causes profound change.
In—every—single—novel. No exceptions.
All the instances I’m going to talk about happened during revision rounds, not before. Thus, I’m leaving out my last minute inclusion of the key in Protecting the Pneuma Key. Originally, there was no key. I’m serious. It was added at the last instant because the image I found for a NaNo cover had a key. The original title was Pneumas Scepter, or something like that. I also won’t include Following the Essence Stone. It’s a rewrite and hasn’t been revised yet.
Okay, let’s take a look at some examples…
Trust in the Forgotten
Adding Absaka. No change to Riparia’s Bk1 has had as profound an impact on, not just the novel, but the series as the addition of these chapters that weren’t in the draft. They were initially added so she’d rethink a prejudice she held. So much more happened. Yes, her character deepened, but so did her relationship with another character. Too, the item played an important part in an event in Bk2. Bigger yet, it introduced an ability on her part that most comes into focus in Bk3.
A River in Each Hand
Awakening Memories. Riparia’s Bk2. As a result of an event in Bk1, Riparia has childhood memories surface when triggered under the right circumstances. They weren’t in the original draft and have a huge impact, not only on the book, but the series.
The Time Library. I often cite this one. In the draft, this is a minor event that’s boring and makes little sense. During the first revision I suddenly saw the potential. The theme was adopted. A hall of mirrors was added. The physical library became fantastical. The events that occur are extraordinary.
So Others Might Remember
Alchemist’s Outpost. Riparia’s Bk3. The location existed in the first draft, but for little reason. When I revised it this year it profoundly changed and altered the course of the book, series, and several characters. That’s heavy lifting!
Cyclones. They didn’t exist in the first draft. They heighten tension, are metaphorical, and set the stage for altering the path of characters.
Glistenelle in Barnavava.This fills the middle of the prequel and so altered her character that it influenced my revisions of the other books where she’s present. In the draft, her stay in the city is merely mentioned. When I decided to add her experiences … oh wow.
Kasaria’s Voice. The last of the purely Carrdia novels. I’ve talked about this one before, but it might’ve been when I had my other website. This has to be the most clever thing I’ve ever done, but the result is heartfelt. Unfortunately, it’s also a spoiler. What I can say is that Kasaria, who’s the protagonist, isn’t in the first third of the novel. Awkward! It’s an unusual story and there was no way to change that fact—until inspiration led to her being present beginning on page one, but not.
Symbology. The first of the Pannulus novels. As if the novel needed more mysteries on Cape Caprice. The thing is, the mysteries are scattered all over the cape and represent historical moments. The symbology pulled the entire cape together and made it a motif. All of a sudden, the mystery of the cape was everywhere. There’s no escaping it.
Protecting the Pneuma Key
The Courtroom. This is at the middle of the novel and wasn’t in the first draft. It isn’t a trial, but instead a hearing. In the draft, it occurred in a small room with limited people present. Later, I moved it to an actual courtroom and everything changed. It became an event and media circus. It altered the lives of multiple characters. It also had the advantage of being the same courtroom where Zephtasha was sentenced in the backstory.
Talma Loyal. Few changes could compete with this one given that she doesn’t even appear in the first draft. How big of an impact did her inclusion have on the novel? Well, she inspired a novel of her own, which I began revising for the first time this month.
Talma’s story, Case of the Deadly Stroll, is already slated for some exciting changes by virtue of the notes I wrote after it was drafted. If history is any guide, there could be much, much more.
In the case of Riparia’s series, some of the revision discoveries have reverberated through all the books. I already have notes for Bks 4&5 and can see how that’s true. The same is true of Talma Loyal’s existence. It all comes down to viewing a draft, not as a finished product to be polished, but as a block of marble waiting to reveal the full sculpture within.