The Process Of Writing And Revising My Novels, by Monika Schroder
I like to revise. Truth be told, I prefer revising to writing the first draft. I do not belong to a writers’ critique group, nor do I employ ‘beta readers.’ But every writer needs another pair of eyes to read her manuscript to provide feedback. My husband is always my first reader. As a former high school English teacher he provides me with valuable feedback, and he is honest. I usually give him a first draft when I am about two-thirds into the book. At that stage in the process I like to hear what works and what doesn’t. Also, as I am about to draft the climax and ending of the story it is good to know if the story stands on solid legs.
Once I have finished a full draft it goes through numerous revisions and each of these revisions focuses on a different aspect of the manuscript. In an early stage when I revise for plot I tweak and streamline the events along the story’s arc. I cut scenes or write them more tightly. Another revision focuses on the character development, making sure that I have kept his or her development clear and the character’s traits are consistent throughout the story.
After the larger structural problems are fixed it is time to improve syntax and word choice. Here I also rely on my husband’s keen eye. He combs through the manuscript and notes suggestions for improvement on the margin.
My last book has many characters and many different settings. When describing the interior of a room I placed a chair “under the window” in several scenes. Apparently, whenever I imagined a scene that took place in a room I placed one piece of furniture under the window. The same happened in my description of men’s clothing. Frequently, I dressed them in dark suits causing my husband to write, “too many dark suits!” on the margins of my manuscript.I appreciate my husband’s attention to these details and hope to avoid these repetitions in the future.
Mark Twain said: “When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”
I know that I should avoid most adverbs but I really need to cut back on my use of the word “quickly.” I cut it 35 times in my last manuscript and have pledged not to use it again. If Joe walks somewhere or stuffs something in his pocket the reader doesn’t need the speed of the action accelerated by adding ‘quickly.’ It is always better to pick a strong verb and let it express the action precisely and speak for itself.
In the unrevised drafts I also use the adverbs ‘cheerfully’ or ‘disdainfully’ too often. An example: “I don’t think I can do this,” Joe said disdainfully. If Joe says something full of disdain it has to come out directly in his words or the circumstances of the situation. I need to clear up those adverbial taglines, quickly.
Monika Schroder’s author website: www.monikaschroeder.com
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