This is nothing new, actually, just an approach I'll try with the final draft of TUBE to make it as good as I possibly can before sending it off to Sarah for editing. Lots of writers do it. So I'm jumping on the wagon to join them. The idea is simple: instead of going through the manuscript draft by draft like I did before, revising everything as I go, this time, after Draft 5 is done, I will read it 5 more times, from beginning to end, each time focusing on one thing only.
NOTE: This approach works well if you're doing it to the draft that's close to final, or the one you think is close to final. If you're a plotter, your second draft might close to final. If you're a pantser like I used to be, you'll need to write out a number of drafts to smooth out the story and the plot before trying this.
Just like the ice cream sits in a waffle cone, your story sits in a setting. This first read-through is for setting only. In case of TUBE it's the train and various places in Moscow and Alupka (a small Black Sea resort town). I can't imagine what this read-through will look like as I've never done this before, but I'll be on the lookout for authenticity. Does the setting make the story ring true? Does the setting itself feel like a real place? How can I make it more believable? Is it detracting from the story or adding to it? Am I using concrete details vs generalities? And so on.
The second read-through is the most important one, as it will be for the plot (the big scoop of ice cream). I'll look only at plot structure in every scene and in the book as a whole. All parts of the structure I'm borrowing from The Story Grid, and they are:
- The inciting incident. Shit happens! Does every scene start with something terrible happening? It should, or I will lose the reader.
- The complications. Shit gets worse. Do I have a number of complications making the terrible things even more terrible? How many? Can I add more? Should I subtract some?
- The crisis. Shit gets so bad, the emotions of the character change from happy to devastated. This is the turning point of each scene, when the emotional charge switches from positive to negative, or from negative to positive. Do I have a clear turn?
- The climax. My character tries fixing the shit. Do I have a very clear confrontation with my character's opponent in each scene? Does it all come to a head? Is it clear to the reader that this is the climax?
- The resolution. Shit stops happening, but new shit is about to happen soon. Did I close the scene successfully? Did I wrap up all the ends and prepped my character to go into the new scene?
Now I'll read through the draft from the POVs of each character, to make sure I didn't miss anything. For TUBE it will be four reads: one for Olesya, one for her Papa, one for Dima, and one for Yuri. Perhaps one for her Mama, too. This is the second scoop of ice cream, to add the flavor to the plot. After all, characters make the story.
This read-through will be for dialogue only, and I will use Robert McKee's Dialogue as my guide. The idea is that every chunk of dialogue has to have 10-12 emotional turns (the number is just something to start with). So I'll be scraping through my chunks of dialogue to make sure I have no repetitions, and to make sure every 2-3 lines I have a new turn, or my reader will get bored. And, of course, I'll watch for the authenticity of voices. Do my characters sound different? Do they sound like real, distinct people with their own histories, habits, and speech inflections? Are the recognizable without dialogue tags? And so on.
That elusive thing of style. The final read-through will be for making sure that I have no "writing" left in my story. Meaning, it's just pure story and nothing else. So I'll be striking adverbs and adjectives, and passive voice, and flowery phrases, and anything that is trying too hard and would distract the reader from the story.
And this is basically it. Man, it sounds like a lot of work. I hope Draft 5 of TUBE will be done in July, so it looks like I'll need another month just for these additional 5 read-throughs, and then, it'll be done. I'll let you know how this process works for me (or not). Onward.