Musings on Writing

When Revising Requires a Chainsaw Rather Than Tweezers

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A few days ago, I posted about the novel I submitted to RevPit.  I also commented that one reason it didn’t get selected was because the novel didn’t deliver what the query promised.  And I was right, just not like I thought I was.

Let me preface this by saying I love multiple points of view.  The more the merrier as far as I’m concerned.  I realize this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I’m a huge fan of David Mitchell and Kate Morton – six or seven points of view in a time-slip novel or novel-in-stories?  Bring ‘em on!  I want to read it.   The problem is, I’m not at a level where I can pull that off successfully in my own writing.

The novel I submitted is a bit on the short side, clocking in at 69,000 words with a whopping seven points of view.  Part of me wants to stand defiantly by all of my POV characters, part of me wants to hang my head in shame that I didn’t see this issue earlier. How can you possibly connect to the main characters if I don’t give you time to get to know them?  Because of this,  the novel really doesn’t deliver what the query promised because the query is from one point of view.  The novel I wrote threw in every possible character’s point of view  – including some that were completely unnecessary – and diluted everyone’s voice.  

I suppose at this point I have a few options. I can give a laundry list of all the reasons why I used each character and why they absolutely can’t be cut out and then go merrily on my way with the novel exactly as it is. I can also query the novel as it stands and run a very large risk of agents passing on it because, at the risk of being redundant, the novel doesn’t deliver what the query promised. 

So the question is: do I admit the feedback is correct and I need to do a lot more than tweak my novel?  That I do, in fact, need to take a chainsaw to it then stitch it back together again?  What do you do when feedback is not what you want to hear and you realize your novel requires major surgery?  I mean, after you resist the urge to bang your head against the wall at yet another major revision.

First off, think about who the feedback is coming from.  If one reader isn’t crazy about a character or subplot, it might just be that reader isn’t your target audience.  But when multiple people are telling you the same thing, and one of those people makes a living as a developmental editor, they probably have a point.  Once the sting wears off that everyone doesn’t find your masterpiece to be a masterpiece, then you can look at their criticisms with an objective eye and take the necessary steps to revise your novel into that glittering gem that’s not quite uncovered yet.

Yes, this level of restructuring will require completely rewriting a large portion of the book.  Yes, it will require looking at my darlings dispassionately and deciding if they really need to have a point of view.  Can I get their voice across from someone else’s POV?  Most likely.  Will it suck to have to restructure half of the book?  Yes.  But I’ll go into revisions knowing the novel will be all the stronger for it. 

Because at the end of that day, if you’re trying to get traditionally published, it’s about querying the strongest book possible.  Once an agent rejects your query, you don’t get another chance.  I’d rather bring my A-game the first time.

If you’ve faced this sort of revision with a novel you thought was finished, or have any thoughts on the revision process and what’s worked for you, I’d love to hear them!  

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