A Theory of Revising

The excellent Kate Elliot has gathered together a stew of thoughts on the revision process:
Me, I write long. My first drafts sprawl all over the place; conversations meander across hill and dale; I put in too much description and answer the same questions over and over and often in a contradictory manner and I repeat myself. And I repeat myself. More than once.

I often write placeholder scenes or even chapters, which I define as a scene or chapter that doesn’t really work and doesn’t have the right stuff in it but which needs to be there because something important will happen in that scene space once I figure out what it is, and I often can’t figure out what it is until I have the entire first draft written and sometimes not until the second or third draft (for instance, I had a short placeholder chapter in the first draft of Cold Fire that turned into three chapters when I expanded it properly).

Because I know these things are true of my early drafting process, I know that beyond whatever else the story needs--and each story needs a different revision--I will absolutely need to cut, trim, tighten, and sharpen throughout the book. I will have to go back through the whole and bring the heart of the story into focus by identifying scenes or conversations that ramble off the focus on the heart of the story, because I do tend to digress or get interested in that plot whisper over there which suddenly appears so mysterious and inviting. I must also flag places where I repeat information and then consolidate it in the most effective and dramatic fashion.