Revision Hell: Like an Onion

Last night after work, I finished the last revision to Return to Shanhasson, at least until my beta readers sign in with any confusion or holes they find.

Hopefully I’ve conveyed to you that for me, revisions are all about the layers, and so I stole that reference from Shrek where he says ogres are like onions.  I’ve read Holly Lisle’s one-pass revision article, but that just doesn’t work for me.  I do some of her techniques, but I need more than one pass.

Each book requires a different amount of work.  Return to Shanhasson really didn’t have that many significant issues that I needed to resolve.  I had two major scenes I wanted to rework, and I thought the end was a little rushed, but otherwise, I thought the story was pretty solid.

In this case, my first pass was smoothing; watching sentence and paragraph structure; correcting typos, run-on sentences, and fragments; expanding emotional and non-verbal communication; and fleshing out the easier [notes to myself]. 

I made note of a few things I wanted to resolve or address, and I fixed those things as I went.  However, if those things had been significant enough — like a new subplot, as I did for the Maya story — then I would have done a revision pass just for that change.

After that first pass, I went back through the manuscript searching for the last [notes].  These required me to pull up not just the first two books in the series, but also the two Keldari novellas.  I had character names I couldn’t remember, and I also needed to name a ruined city on the edge of Far Illione.  That required googling and research to find just the right name.

Yesterday, I made another full pass.  This one was more delicate.  I savored some passages, rewording key phrases to make sure they sounded right and had the rhythm I was looking for. 

I also watched for any dischordant words.  The right word is so important.  In this fantasy, no character should ever say okay.  Mykal would never say pool, but he would say well.  A Sha’Kae al’dan warrior will say “Forgive me” but never “I’m sorry.”  Rhaekhar always gripped Shannari’s chin, but Gregar always danced his ivory rahke up her neck and cheek. 

These are all little things, little layers, but they’re so important.  It’s part of my voice, and part of each character’s voice.  It’s the little phrases that tie Rose to Road to Return.  Remember when Rhaekhar says “run to me” in effort to get Shannari to ride straight to him near the endof Rose?  That phrase is significant.  Reusing it not once but several times helped me bring the entire story arc through nearly 1000 pages full circle.

Finally, I had to remember the theme song, Faith of the Heart, and make sure it rang true and strong throughout the story.  I believe it does.

It’s been a long, long road, but what an incredible journey.

2 thoughts on “Revision Hell: Like an Onion

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Joely Sue Burkhart » Revision Hell: Like an Onion -- Topsy.com

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