Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

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!


At 9/14/2010 7:07 PM, Blogger Paul West said...

I'm in exactly the same place with my current WIP. I feel your pain!

At 9/14/2010 7:28 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

Hey, Rob, I'd be happy to be a test reader for you. I think I can probably get someone to vouch for me.

They could probably write something like that where you count certain words and give them a weighted score, but it still wouldn't be nearly as good as getting a human reader to do it. "You have a ratio of 5% creepy words, but ruined the experiment by just having the bad guy repeat "Kill, kill, kill!" over and over. REJECTION!

At 9/14/2010 8:48 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

:) Yes, I can vouch for Jon. He's test read my last two books (even when I gave him a brutal deadline last time).

At 9/14/2010 9:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How cool to be right there. To sit at the desk of a master and view the very computer screen upon which a masterpiece unfolds in all its digital glory.

Have I found a kindred Diet Coke spirit? Are we going to go out of this life with a bang? The mother of all aspartame fixes? A high that will leave every synapse firing long after we're gone? Moderate that!

PS: I can test read two paragraphs and tell you everything you want to know about your character. Try me. Just post it here on your blog. I can help. Really. I can. I also moonlight for "Area 51 The Magazine". I'm their best editor. You'll never believe the stuff they hide in the basement.

At 9/15/2010 7:48 AM, Blogger Melanie Goldmund said...

Yeah, if I could write software that would do that, I would, because I need it desperately. And speaking of needing, Rob, if you ever need a blank slate reader, I'm here for you. :-)

At 9/15/2010 11:25 AM, Blogger Don said...

Hmm. Plot analysis by from the same people who do spell and grammar check with squiggly red and green lines.

Interesting. And potentially very, very scary.

At 9/15/2010 12:22 PM, Blogger Michael Knudsen said...

Yeah, fresh readers is really the only hope of fresh feedback at this point. Of course, more Diet Coke wouldn't hurt...

At 9/15/2010 12:34 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Just get rid of the diet Coke all together and replace it with the 10 cal Monster. It doesn't taste any better, but with the caffeine of 4 cokes, it will cut down on your cans. :)

At 9/15/2010 1:41 PM, Blogger Charlie Moore said...

Yes, leave it to Jeff. Always thinking proactively.

At 9/16/2010 4:04 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

You may be an aspartame addict, but you can pick one whale of a snazzy lamp.

At 9/16/2010 4:20 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Thanks, Tristi! That lamp was a birthday present from my wife. I love it.


Post a Comment

<< Home