Conspire – Revision Help

This weekend I spent the Easter holidays with my parents in Adelaide. I am incredibly lucky to have a mother who enjoys helping me with my novel writing. Just as she did with Times of Trouble, she has been editing Conspire as I write it – chapter by chapter – over many months. It is invaluable to have someone reading and critiquing my work as I go, and I’m incredibly grateful for the help.

You might not get this impression if you overheard one of our editing sessions. It sometimes appears I’m about two seconds from snapping and throwing my hands in the air with frustration. We were revising my plot for more than 12 hours over two days, and we got a huge amount of work done. But when there are numerous conversations like the following, one after the other, you can see how tension might occur:

Me: ‘Why do you want to change that part? It’s fine!’

Mum: ‘It doesn’t make sense! Read it again out loud and tell me what you meant to say.’

Me: ‘Fine, if it doesn’t make sense, what would you put instead?’

Mum: ‘Tell me what you meant to say and I’ll tell you what you could write instead.’

Me: ‘Forget it. If it doesn’t make sense, I’ll just delete it.’

Mum: ‘Then the next part wont make sense. Do we need to take a break?’

I wouldn’t say I’m precious about my work. In actual fact I make the suggested changes in about 97% of her highlighted sections. But it is never easy to have someone tell you that your work of art isn’t sitting together as it should. I also found that the style of Conspire is making it very hard to insert extra information or change the dialogue. I wrote it with the aim of being concise and not interrupting the fast flow of the action. Every chapter is around 1,000 – 2,000 words long. So when there was a plot inconsistency which Mum identified as needing revision, our biggest challenge was finding somewhere appropriate to insert more words. When I finished Times of Trouble, I had the opposite problem – 20,000 words needed to be removed.

It was very satisfying to see the end result of our work. The style is tighter now – even though there are more words. The plot unravels at the correct speed – like a snaking line of dominos, all falling neatly on top of each other one sentence at a time. I still have some changes to make, but I am not far off having a draft that is ready for friends and family to critique. Again, thank you to Mum for asking all the tough questions and tolerating my eye rolling. Every point you made was valuable. From:

‘You’ve used that word in the sentence before. Find a different word.’

To:

‘Can a nuclear missile really fire that far? Can you please check Wikipedia again?’

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3 Comments on “Conspire – Revision Help”

  1. Keith says:

    Good luck with your book. One reason I have never considered writing a novel is that I am a stickler for revision and usually revise at least 10 times with a final revision prior to sending out to a publisher. My short stories range from 3500 words up to 10,000 words and that is enough for me to cope with time wise. If I was to offer advice then it would be to use the ‘Flesch Reading Ease’ statistics found in MS word spell check programmes. I aim for a statistic of 60% upwards. This keeps me on track with my sentence structure — so that I am not constantly moving between simple structures and complex structures. If I get anything lower, then it is time to reconstruct the sentence to meet my criteria. Most readers want an easy read, so I try and maintain a good mix of short and medium length sentences and medium length paragraphs.

    • Victoria Rollison says:

      Thanks for the tip Keith. I’m going to check out the ‘Flesch Reading Ease’ stats now!

  2. […] carlton, osama bin laden, what book to read | Leave a comment » If you have read some of my earlier posts, you will already know that my wonderful mother is my writing/plotter/editing buddy. You might not […]


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