by Margaret McNellis
Some writers enjoy revision. I never used to be one of them, but after trying out these exercises, I too love revisiting my work and making it stronger. Before I fell in love with editing and revising, I would draft and then forget about my work for awhile. Sometimes I’d submit it to a market but if it was rejected, I didn’t have a solid plan in place for what to do next.
Here are four ways to revise your fiction that even fit into a handy acronym: EDIT.
1. Escape the setting.
How would your story flow if you changed the setting? If you’re writing, for example, about a detective working a city beat, how would the mystery differ if it was set in the suburbs? Or in a different era? Playing with setting can elicit a flood of ideas of how a story might be radically revised, especially if that setting also serves as a character.
2. Decimate your wordcount.
Whatever your word count is, cut it down to 10%. A short story of 3,000 words becomes 300. A novel of 150,000 words becomes a novella of 15,000. Can you tell the same story in one tenth of the previously allotted space?
Like physical possessions, stories often expand to fill the pages they’re given. This isn’t always a bad thing, but the goal of these types of revisions is to think radically. Cutting the story down to 10% forces you to focus on its bare bones; then you can build it back up again if you like.
3. Introduce a new character.
New characters come with new sub-plots, which can drastically change a story. With so many different types of characters to choose from (flat, dynamic, foil, etc.), you could actually repeat this exercise multiple times over the course of your revisions.
4. Try a new point of view.
Writing in third-person limited? Try first person and bring your reader directly into the headspace of one of your characters. You may even find, when working with this radical revision, that your story revolves around a different character than you originally thought.
Radical revisions help writers explore new ways to think about plot, setting, and characters. Every writer should try these exercises at least once to get a feel for the immense possibility of every story.
Since I became a radical reviser, I no longer feel lost when a story gets rejected. Instead, I choose one of these revisions and resubmit the story elsewhere. Sometimes it can be difficult to be a persistent writer if you don’t know where to turn when your story doesn’t hit its mark. Hopefully these radical revisions offer a target for your fiction.
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blogs about writing, and is the founder and editor of The Magical Past, a literary publication that provides a home for Historical Fantasy. She is a member of Sigma Tau Delta, JASNA, the Historical Novel Society, and the Society for the Study of American Women Writers, among others.
Her fiction has been published in The Penman Review, The Copperfield Review, See Spot Run, and Fictitious Magazine. Her short story, “A Glass of Scotch” will appear in Dual Coast Magazine in 2015. She’s also a martial artist and pianist.
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