Have been ill for the past few days, but am starting to recover. I’m knee deep in my novel revisions right now. This is definitely one of the strangest revisions I’ve ever undertaken, because I’m altering the protagonists entire character and emotional journey. In most books that would be a rewrite, but in a thriller, it’s actually not as difficult as you’d think. In thrillers, the action is primarily driven by the antagonist’s agenda–the hero is usually in a pretty reactive position throughout the book–so it doesn’t matter if the hero’s motivations change from draft to draft.
Still, it’s an odd thing to do, and I’m so deep inside it that I’m really not at all sure if it’s working. Today I had a moment where I stepped back and was like, “Wait, does this make any sense at all? Do I even have a character arc anymore?” and then I had to go back and reread in order to confirm that there was real character movement across this draft.
I never used to believe that the goodness of a book was determined by how well you revised it. I believed that revision was important in order to sand away the bad stuff, but I didn’t believe you could actually put in new good stuff. However, I’ve noticed in my last few revisions that this process actually adds a lot of layers to the plot and characterization. If the character is slightly different at different moments, that doesn’t seem (to the reader) like the result of two scenes being written at vastly different times. Rather, it reads as complexity. That’s why it’s possible to revise. Nothing you add a year after writing the first draft is going to sound the same as the first draft material. But you don’t want it to. The reason you’re adding something new is because you want to in some way change the tone of the whole piece.
It’s also very satisfying when revision solves puzzles and makes things simpler. There are things in this book that have never made sense, but now they’re finally popping into place in a very simple and elegant way. There are dialogues that have, for the last eighteen months, basically been placeholder dialogues (except I didn’t know they were placeholders) where I knew something needed to happen, but didn’t know exactly what.
It’s immensely satisfying.