Pacing, or, What I Learned Whilst Revising My Novel

So my second draft has been complete for a whole week now, and while trusty people are reading it for me, I’m busy working on a query letter and synopsis and researching agents. I read through draft #2 myself last Monday and Tuesday, and after trimming scattered unnecessary verbiage and deleting a scene from chapter three, I successfully wrangled  it down to 80,055 words, which was my hoped-for word count from the beginning. So that’s pretty awesome!

At any rate, I thought I would do a sort of follow-up to my post back in March about experimenting with revision techniques, when I was first figuring out how I wanted to tackle this second draft.

Probably my biggest focus during Draft #2 was fixing the PACING. As the shrunken manuscript pointed out at the very beginning, this was a HUGE problem area for this novel, and something I wrestled with a lot when creating my handy-dandy revision-battle-plan spreadsheet outline. That outline was THE BOMB. It really helped me work on the big-picture plot-and-pacing issues without getting bogged down in the prose, and even when I was entrenched in the actual slog of re-writing, it kept me on track. There were a few times where what I’d decided to do on the outline and what worked in the actual manuscript were two different things (most notably in a handful of the ending chapters when I tumbled down that GAPING PLOT HOLE). But for the most part it was invaluable, and I don’t think any outline should ever be so rigid that you can’t take the story in a slightly different direction if the narrative demands it.

Reading through the second draft, I was excited to see how much the pacing really had improved. All the scenes were there for specific reasons (except for that scene in chapter three, which is why it got axed), and the arc of the narrative felt more natural than before. I’m still vaguely uncertain about a few things that happen towards the end, especially whether or not I successfully filled that plot hole (that’s what my intrepid readers are for :-)), but overall I’m really pleased. I’m almost beginning to think that revising is more rewarding than first drafting, even though it’s more painful (and takes a heck of a lot longer)…

In any case, I’ve learned a ton about my revising process over the last ten months, and I feel more equipped to tackle revisions in the future (which is good, because I have a lot of them looming).

Without further ado, I give you Things I Learned Whilst Revising My Novel (a list):

  1. The spreadsheet outline is THE BEST.
  2. Numbering all the scenes on the hard copy of my manuscript is excessively helpful.
  3. Rewriting takes longer than first drafting, it just does. My subconscious needs time to work through problems.
  4. Actually fixing things in the manuscript is harder than figuring out how to fix them on the outline.
  5. Deleting unnecessary passages and scenes—even if I like them—is very, very freeing, especially if I stash them in a could-salvage-later-if-I-need-to folder.
  6. Finishing a second draft feels GOOD.

And there you have it.