That’s my frustration.
I resist making big changes. Adding in characters, moving characters around, changing big events, altering the fate of a scene. I feel like a Fate in Training. One wrong snip of thread, and the entire tapestry will fall to ruins in my hands.
I don’t want my novel to be a pile of string!
Basically, I feel like a kid running with scissors except instead of risking injury, I risk unraveling the very fabric of the world! Granted, that world is fictional, but that hardly lessens the severity of the situation!! You might think I’m being a bit dramatic, but where else does drama take center stage… besides, uh, a real stage… I suppose…
Writing a book establishes a world. And writers, with compelling characters and interesting plots, invite readers into that world. Fictional or not, those worlds are solid and provide vital foundation for all that lies subject to invention and imagination. Books, and the people in them, feel real to us, and therefore are real.
Recently, I wrote a series of 15 discussion questions for my book. At the same time, I also wrote 12 revision questions.
The questions covered everything I could think of, including the following:
- Balance of good characters to bad characters
- Placement of pivotal scenes
- Hey, this character has been missing for 30 chapters… that feels like a problem.
- Is there enough of a focus on the theme of identity?
- Is the lack of antagonist in the first part of the story balanced enough by the antagonism of the society.
- Also, here’s the list of things not wrapped up at the end of the book.
- And here’s some plot holes to fix up.
Needless to say, consolidating all the iffy feelings I have toward my manuscript into 12 questions has two effects:
- I feel a lot more organized. I feel like I can tackle the beast of revision. Making a list of revision questions has given me direction and focus.
- I feel slightly overwhelmed by the potential magnitude of these changes.
I am now afraid of destroying the world I have created.
That world that I mentioned earlier? The one writers weave with precision and intricacy and thoughtfulness? WHAT HAPPENS IF I DESTROY IT?! What if, by changing a character, moving a scene, tying a few threads to fix plot holes, I mess up the woven pattern?
MAKING CHANGES TO THE WORLD IS SCARY. It’s a bit terrifying. OK, it’s absolutely petrifying.
The worst part is that you can leave the world as it is. You can let the fear of ruining something keep you from trying to change it. But you’ll be stuck with something forever fated to fall short of its potential. Complacency is the unfelt vice — you don’t notice it until you look back and realize all moments that slipped away, all the days you failed to seize.
And as far as Fate is concerned, sometimes we need to cut a few threads, end up with a heap of unmanageable thread, before we can patch it all back together into something inexplicably beautiful.
Let’s run with scissors.