I spent the morning working on revisions of my first novel. My third novel is well on it’s way and I wanted to back track so to speak and clean up some issues with the first novel that were revealed during my workshopping at my mfa program.
The errors: Author intrusion in a third person narrative. Protagonist and antagonist are to one-dimensional. Using present instead of past tense. Felt like a movie not a novel. The last two issues are due to the fact that unbeknownst to me I was still wearing my screenwriter hat whenever I worked on my novel. The first error I caught in a couple of places, but there were some that the expert eyes of my fellow workshoppers and our faculty caught for me. Going back in to work on my novel past the part I workshopped I see where I did that frequently.
One-dimensionality. My faculty advisor sent me a list of character exercises that have exploded the world of my novel in my head. I found out things about my characters that I didn’t know and I am incorporating them into the revision. Nobody cares about a Miss Perfect, and nobody cares about a Mr. Evil. Characters need layers that can be sorted out and developed in the course of a novel.
Are these revisions easy? No. It’s hard to switch gears from present tense to past tense. I’ve become accustomed to writing in first person. Will it get easier? Yes. It takes some time for my brain to register that I’m writing in past tense. Once it does, the writing flows smoother. Plus switching from present to past is more than changing verb tenses. Sometimes it can change the meaning of the entire sentence. Sometimes I have to rewrite the sentence before, and after in addition to the present tense sentence.
Am I glad I’m doing it? Absolutely. I love my first novel. The characters are real. I feel an emotional tug from each of them. Some pleasant, some not. Which is to be expected. I have characters that I love and characters that I hate and hope my readers hate for the right reasons. Not because their flat but because they remind them of the deepest darkest part of themselves.
How will this affect my screenwriting? For the better. Being a better fiction writer has transferred over to tighter, grittier scenes in my screenwriting.
Revision may be a chore to some, but it is necessary if you want to be a successful writer. Don’t dismiss it. It is the process by which we as writers grow. Or did you think only your characters changed during the course of a novel?