Revisions are hard. Right now I’m on day 3 of revising a monster chapter, more than 6000 words total. It started life as 5 chapters that were too damned small. Now, I might split it into 3 chapters, because there are more or less 3 sections, but on the other hand it’s one viewpoint character, and I don’t want to split the chapters up with other viewpoint chapters. That’s how I originally had it, so you could see the villain and the protagonist alternating, but it was awful.
On top of that, a lot of this chapter was very travel log-ish. They went here, they went there, never really delving into the emotional impact of months on the road with minimal supplies in ever worsening conditions, death, loss, grief. I have now changed that, made it much starker, increased the impact. That added several hundred words, and it’s still going.
When I revise I often introduce new spelling and grammatical errors. Sometimes I revise a chapter, and only keep one sentence from the original, keeping the themes and ideas, but completely changing the language. My goal is to pull every piece of emotion out of a series of events that I can. The first draft gives me facts, ideas. For me it’s usually very devoid of emotion. This is something I didn’t get for a long time. I tried to make every draft a final draft, to make each sentence be the perfect sentence. I didn’t finish a damned thing. The sheer volume I introduce is what leads to introducing new errors. I might have actually killed every single issue in the last revision, but now there are lots of them. I also am getting pretty damned good at killing my darlings. If something is cool on its own, but it doesn’t help the flow, it doesn’t improve the story, I usually kill it. There is an exception to that. If a story has been too bleak for too long and I feel like my readers and my characters need a ray of hope I will include one, an interlude of peace. Sometimes it’s just to show that the world I am writing is one worth living in.
One final note on revisions: I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Linda Bowes – she reads my chapters as I finish them, and tells me all the ways I have screwed up. I think every writer needs an editor, and she’s acting as one, without asking for anything at all in return!