Return to Revisionland

Listening to: Damien Rice, “Cannonball”

The betas have spoken.

When you hear the same comment from several people on a major aspect of your story, you pretty much have to listen. Eventually. After like, the sixth person says it. Maybe.

I’ve struggled a lot with this particular aspect, which was having my protagonist (Freya) in first person and chapters from my antagonist’s (Grigory) POV in third person–then first person–then third person again (through multiple revisions, not varying within the novel itself). I knew I was taking a risk with it–it’s done by some authors, yes, but not terribly often, and it’s a rarity in YA. I have about 25 books on the YA shelf of my bookcase, and only one series out of all those books does this. Although in that case, the POV varies between first person for the protagonist and third person for secondary characters.

So yeah, it was a risk. And I fought a lot with it, as is clear from the fact that I kept on changing Grigory’s POV. In third he was wooden; in first he had more personality but I felt it was confusing for the reader; when I moved it to third again, I felt I’d nailed it–he had personality, but I made sure the reader knew in each of his chapters that it was from his POV.

But after so many comments about it–none of them really negative, just uncertain and concerned–I decided to do something.* And I realized that I was being an idiot. A really, really big idiot. The whole reason I had multiple POVs was due to a rule I created that Grigory couldn’t approach Freya until a certain thing had happened.

Um, hello, McFly. If you create the rules, you can change them.

So I’m restructuring the whole damn thing. Grigory appears in Freya’s life by the second chapter, and it’s all from her POV. His method of getting what he wants from her, or trying to, is going to be markedly different. He’s going to be more hands-on, sneakier, more manipulative.

And so far, I love it. I’m loving being back in Freya’s head again. I feel like this adds a new element to the story, a deeper element to Freya’s character and her journey, and more suspense and mystery to the plot.

Of course, it’s also ridiculously complicated. I’m performing surgery here, people. This is the most complex revision I’ve ever taken. I like a good challenge, though.

To keep track of when and where all the changes are taking place and how my plot will change, I needed some kind of storyboard/timeline, though. I couldn’t just go in there willy-nilly and move this and that, add, subtract, and whammo.

So I went into Word and started having fun with text boxes. This is what I came up with:

It’s small and blurred–don’t want to give away my plot–but you can see what I’ve done. One line for Grigory, one for Freya. Red boxes are scenes that need to be added. Red text represents things that need changed within existing scenes. Text in gray is stuff that happens off camera, so to speak. The arrows are sort of cause and effect, more to keep my mind clear and connect various incidents than anything. The scenes on the line, obviously, are scenes in which Freya and Grigory appear together.

I’m about halfway done with the whole thing. It’s taking up every spare second, as I want to get this thing done already. But I’ve learned something really important: be flexible. Not just when my betas are concerned (I learned that a long time ago), but also in the initial writing.

If I’d just decided to change that one silly, unnecessary rule when I first realized I had a problem, I wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with.

One last thing, before I go back to my revisions. After almost every reader commented on this particular aspect, and after I really dug into the revisions, another friend finished reading. He told me at the bar on Saturday, and we started talking about his thoughts. I asked him what he thought of the varying POVs (clearly, he was reading the pre-revision version).

“I loved it!” he said.**

Head, meet desk. Oh wait–you’ve met before? Ah, yes. You’re good friends. No introductions needed, then.

*Tia was the straw that broke the stubborn writer’s back. Hear that, Tia? You’re a straw! =)

**This is why I kept a copy of the previous version. Just in case I either change my mind or mess it up entirely. I’m not stupid, yanno.

7 thoughts on “Return to Revisionland

  1. It can be hard to make those sorts of decisions, but it always feel so great when something new, unexpected and exciting comes out of changes made thanks to the suggestions of others. It looks like you are really moving on your revisions. Congrats and good luck with them. And good move on saving your original file. 🙂 You never know…

    And that text box thing is a great idea. I may steal that from you. Beats the heck out of index cards.

  2. I must not have sent comments after I commented on this. I loved th POV shift and I actually prefer the Grigory sections to the Freya sections & I assume it's a combo of POV & voice.

    Do what you dig.

  3. I’m glad you kept a copy. You don’t want to be making major revisions to your only copy.

    Sorry to break your camel’s back. I went through the whole “rule breaking” thing too, but I no longer remember what it was for. I had an ephipany. “It’s your novel, Tia!” I said to myself, “Write it the way YOU want to.”

    I’m glad the revisions are going so well and I REALLY hope I didn’t steer you wrong . . .

  4. Struggling: Glad you like it! I’m a tech writer by day, so I figured I’d just use tools that I’m familiar with. It really helps organize your thoughts.

    Eden: I think after I’m done with the revisions, I’ll read both copies and see which I like best. And that’ll be what I query. I’m actually starting to really love this version, surprisingly!

    Tia: No, being the straw is a GOOD thing! And don’t worry about steering me wrong–the only person who can do that is me, and I’ve done it so many times that I’m an expert at getting back on course =)

  5. You said if you create the rules you can break them. I’ll go one further, and paraphrase a quote from an author I can’t remember her name: “There can be no rules for the novel. Not ever.” Of course that isn’t meant the obvious rules, but those of style.

    Koontz does a lot of work with antagonist and protag coming from different POVs. I liked Grim Light the way you have done it, but YA is not something I read a lot of, so what works and doesn’t in this genre you’ll know better than me.

  6. Well, it’s more one of the rules of my world. Which, seeing as how I made it, I can change. Which I should’ve realized, like, six months ago, but…well.

    I’ll have a copy of the old style and a copy of the new, so when I’m finished, I’ll just decide which I like best, and that’ll be it.

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