So I’ve been intrigued by Holly Lisle’s One-Pass Revision since I first stumbled upon it a few months ago. Until now, my revisions have been of the unorganized, “Keep reading and tweaking until it’s done” sort. Unfortunately, I’m up to version 10 or 11 now of THE IMMORTAL CODEX and still don’t think I’ve gotten it quite right.
Since I wrote something totally new for NaNoWriMo, I’m trying the One-Pass Revision with as yet mostly unnamed “The Ghost Story.” After purchasing a new laser printer (I needed a new printer anyway!), I printed out my manuscript and was immediately shocked at the sight of it. It’s only 300 pages but it looks monstrous!
In any case, as Holly promised, the first part of the process was difficult. If you haven’t checked it out, you basically do a book report on your book. Nail down the themes, subthemes, a story arc for the main character, and finally a blurb about the book.
The hardest part was theme. I already knew my themes…or did I? I had a long conversation with someone in my writer’s group about what exactly theme was. Is “love” a theme, or is “obsessive love is dangerous” a theme? I fall on the latter side, as I think theme is a statement, if not necessarily a moral.
For The Ghost Story I had several themes, and I think most books do. Once I nailed down my themes, the other parts were less difficult thanks to having written multiple queries for THE IMMORTAL CODEX. I wanted to skip ahead, but I am trying to do this correctly! Once I finally finished, I got into the exciting part…actually marking up the manuscript! Here’s a peek at what I got done this afternoon:
One thing jumps out to me immediately. This is a great strategy for marking up individual scenes and chapters. But I think it requires a confidence that your story architecture is fairly sound. After editing THE IMMORTAL CODEX multiple times and doing major rewrites at least three times, I can definitely say this process wouldn’t have worked on that book. However, I went into The Ghost Story with a much stronger grasp on story structure and a well-planned plot (neither of which I had on my first version of IC), so I think it might work here. We’ll see soon! 🙂
One of my favorite things about this so far is having laid out the themes and story arc directly. Holly acknowledges that a book often changes subtly while you’re writing it. I didn’t consciously set out to write about overcoming grief in The Ghost Story, but it went that way, and I’m glad it did. Once I nailed that down as a theme, it’s something I can weave throughout the book to make it that much better.
I added something of my own, which was to put a sticky-note at the front of each chapter with bullet points of the conflicts and subplots that showed up. The first one you see mentions the primary conflict of the first chapter (“Bridget late” – she’s going to miss her curfew), an important discovery about our main character (“Sees ghosts”) and the beginning of one of the subplots (“Val is dead – something up”).
Anyway, I’m about to pick it back up, but just for perspective, it took me about three hours to go through the first thirty pages. I’m excited to see how this turns out by the end!by