Everyone knows revision means CHANGE—sometimes deleting characters, merging subplots, or even ripping your novel up by the roots and starting again. But how can you tell if your revision is changing too much in your story? Here are 5 warning signs to be on the lookout for.
1. Your characters are becoming inconsistent.
If personalities are changing from scene to scene, that’s a bad sign—you’re hopping around too much and not considering the throughline of your character’s growth arc. But a revised character can also become incompatible with the plot of a novel, especially if the stakes or motivation hinge on something personal: a revenge plot, for example, won’t make any sense with a character who’s mild-mannered. This is especially true for romance: if one character changes, their love interest needs to adapt to remain compatible with them.
2. You’re losing sight of your novel’s genre.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with blending two genres (who doesn’t love a good romantic thriller or humorous fantasy?) but if your edits are making your novel unrecognizable to fans of the genre, you’re not going to hook readers. It’s not about being cliché, but rather about catering to the expectations of your book’s readership, and delivering the satisfying plot tropes and characters that make them fans. Have a reader take a look at your manuscript and help you decide if it’s still got a hook.
3. You’re adding words.
Sometimes revision does involve lots and lots of new scenes, especially if the plot isn’t hanging together. But if you’re ballooning up more than a few thousand, or to over 100k words total, you might want to re-examine what you’re adding. Is it necessary, or just more fat you’ll need to cut.
4. You’re deleting too much.
There’s a flip side, naturally: sometimes, in a rush to get your novel as lean as possible, you end up cutting plot points or details that are necessary to make the whole thing make sense. Removing too many plot dominos can lead to the narrative falling flat, or falling apart. An outside reader will be able to tell you whether things are still lying logically.
5. You don’t care about the book anymore.
Revision is a long haul, and if you work your manuscript over and over and over, your writerly passion can die away. You’ll never finish a project that you don’t care about, and if you hack away at it too much, no matter how focused you are in the beginning, you’ll end up losing steam by the end. Bottom line: any revision course that sucks away your inspiration isn’t the right one for you book. Take a break, maybe work on another project, and revisit when you’re feeling more fresh.
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