My Revision Wish
As you should be able to tell from the picture above, I've been scrambling over the last week to finish the second round of revisions for VARIANT. I'll leave it to you to decide whether I'm a poor housekeeper or an aspartame addict. (Answer: both.)
This latest revision wasn't too bad. We sorted out all the major plot issues in the last revision, so 90% of this one was little things: word choice and clunky sentence structure and removing repetition.
However, there was one big character issue: there was a main character who had made a sort of unexplained leap in his character arc. I needed to go back and revisit this change of mindset and show more clearly why he made the decision he did, and what motivated him. This, in my mind, is the worst kind of revision.
Here's the deal: I've read and reread this book a million times in the last year, and I know the characters inside out. So, when I'm working on them, it's really hard for me to view it like a reader. I know the twists, I know the ending, I know everything about the characters, so it's all the more difficult for me see it from a reader's perspective.
This, of course, is where it's handy to have test readers. The only problem is that after a year of revising and editing and rewriting, I've pretty much gone through all of my usual test readers. They've read it and given feedback, and I've spoiled them for future reading: no longer can I ask them "Was this scary?" "Did you see the twist coming?" or "What do you think of this character?" They already know the twists and the characters, so they're no longer blank slates.
And even if they haven't read if before, test reading takes time. If I'm only going in to tweak a few paragraphs, then having someone read the entire book just to find out if I solved the problem is horribly inefficient.
Several years ago I worked for Weyerhaeuser as a structural designer. I'd use a computer to build a 3-D frame of a house--I'd lay out the beams and the joists and the headers and such, and then I'd hit the TEST button. The computer would hum and think and calculate, and in a few minutes it would churn out a list a errors: a beam is too small, or a bearing too narrow, or a cantilever is too long. In less than five minutes I'd know whether or not the structural plan "works".
So why can't we have that for books, dang it!? I want to change a couple sentences, and then hit TEST, and have the computer give me a list "The tension is rated: 6.6, the romance is 4.5, and the villians rates as 8.6 for creepiness and 7.4 for ickiness."
Computer programmers--you have your mission! Go!