NaNoWriMo’s End & Revision Going Forward

When I set out at the beginning of the month, I chose the 50k word goal because I knew I had about that much to “re-write” for my novel’s revision (and because it was a nice comfortable number I knew I could hit in one month); but sadly, that goal doesn’t actually cover the entire revision. I still need somewhere around 40k words more to go over and make sure they work within the confines of this new draft. So where does that put me?

Well, I actually hit the 50k word goal at some point in the last week, but it seemed that wasn’t enough to cover all the re-writes necessary to “complete” the draft.

This is when I get very specific about the novel…

So, at the beginning, I crafted a plot map of about 22 chapters (give or take one for further development if I were to need it). That was at some point last September, before I drafter out the first version of J4CKMERED34TH. Somehow, that actually went well as I wrote it. However, once I finished those 22 chapters, at around 95k words (my goal for the complete novel was between 90k-100k words), I realized I had plot holes the size of the Grand Canyon, and I had also pushed a lot of character development aside in order to just get it done. Consequently, that meant a lot of revision, and I mean a lot.

Over the course of two months, throughout January and February, I read through the entire manuscript, and noted ways to fix it. The more I thought about it, the more it baffled me. I had never done anything of this size. Hell, my longest short story was of about 40 pages, and that was a very special case. In my head, it felt as if the entire manuscript weight tons, each page suffocating me, and it took me a while to realize why.

See, I refused to give in and change things too drastically. Every plot point, every character, and every small event had to be in the final version. Losing any of the hard work form the previous months gave me nightmares. After all, I had just typed nearly 100k words in two months! On top of that, I had finished a novel for the first time in my life! I didn’t want to lose anything. Why should I? It was all great.

Yet, not all the moving parts worked. The cogs in the machine stuck to each other and resisted. The plot engine stalled, and nothing happened. In the middle of this I was forced to admit a type of defeat. If I didn’t let go of some things, everything would be for nothing.

I liken it to throwing things off a sinking ship in order to lighten the load. If I wanted to make it to land, I had to make sure the whole thing didn’t sink. Maybe then I’d be able to salvage it.

That was the mind set I used when going into the revision. I had to be completely brutal to the thing, approaching it from a clinical angle. Everything had to be efficient. Everything had to pull its own weight. If it was not helping, it was going to be ripped out, and tossed into the metaphorical recycle bin.

In the end, I devised a new plot map, one that only kept 7 chapters. Now, I mentioned before. I had 22 chapters in the original plot map. That meant, 15 chapters, over half of the novel were thrown out. Sure, I kept a scene here and there from those other chapters, incorporating them into the new draft. But, I ultimately set out to re-write 15 chapters, and “revise” the final 7.

For some context, I’m writing a science fiction novel that deals with a form of “virtual reality,” which I put in quotes because it’s not exactly the virtual reality normally explored. It’s more of a “dream” machine that works under a very strict code in order to keep the mind satisfied. Think of Inception meets The Matrix.

Now, the problem is, that that quick description is more of an explanation of the current draft. In the old draft, I had straight up normal virtual reality, and I had the protagonist trying to regain access. He was pretty useless out there, and forced him into a more of a “dependent” role, observing and being passive. In the new draft, I changed it all in order to explore the science fiction more and actually justify the setting. Otherwise, I was throwing away the science fiction scenario for the sake of following a whiny protagonist that didn’t actually do anything of value other than, well, whine about being useless.

Consequently, I revised that. I changed all of the scenes that dealt with the virtual reality and computer systems. I also redefined the protagonist, making him a little well rounded, though still immature at times, but useful. I guess you could say I finally took the advice one of my professors always says: “give a character a compulsion and set them loose.”

In the new version, Jack (the protagonist) wants to get something that was stolen from him back. That’s it. The rest is just the adventure of the story, trying to discover who took it, why, and then focusing on finding a way to get it back. Things happen along the way, and the plot develops around him. Ultimately, the protagonist finds himself tied in a whole scenario of “deal gone sour.” Yeah, it’s a little cliche, since it’s a common story, but the plot worked a lot smoother, and I got to explore some characters. In the end, I use and abuse the setting. The virtual reality space actually has an effect on the world, and it affects the character in a very meaningful way in the end, which I hope makes the entire journey worth it.

Anyway, I’m at 85k words in the current manuscript, with about 25-30k to revise and edit to make the “real world” sections that I kept fit with the new “virtual world” pieces I rewrote, and I have high hopes of finishing this “second draft” (it’s actually my third, but the second one was a half way crash and burn since I was stubborn in keeping too much stuff in for no good reason). On top of that, I’m actually enjoying this new version a lot more, and that gives me hope that it might be worth something. As some say…if one person ever reads this and likes it, I will be the happiest writer in the world.

Also, I’ll be posting another flash fiction piece at some point next week. I revised a nice little “horror” flash piece I wrote a while back, and I’m just making sure it looks good to host on my page. See you guys in the next update!!!! 😀