Once I do a first draft I, naturally, put the story away for a number of weeks to allow it to grow unfamiliar and, thus, fresh in my brain when I reread it. Then, I read it, taking notes on big picture problems. My last project, I ended up with sixty-five different notes and the list was about six pages long.
I’m preparing to go in this week and begin what I think of as deep revision. It’s a lot of editing, some rewriting, and a little adding whole new scenes. I’ll come out the other side with a new story on my hands; a deeper, more complete, richer story.
I wanted to give an example of what deep revision can do. I once wrote a post about the important elements of a sex scene. In it, I wrote:
Could you make the scene stronger by making them emotionally naked as opposed to physically naked?
If you go back to that previous post, you’ll see I included a first draft sex scene, but then ended up taking it out and replacing it with one that did just that (I’ll include a sample of it at the end; it’s from my book Infamous). Here’s why:
What I ended up replacing this scene with is one of connection, but the emotional sort. I finally realized that it’s too easy for my hero to make a sexual connection, but he never makes emotional connections. He pushed himself out of his comfort zone, he took a tiny step toward change. And she distinguished herself, in yet another way, as different from any other woman.
The reasons I made the change are described above, but it was also to increase the tension between these two characters, provide a richer understanding of their characters, and improve my story’s pacing.Deep Revision can increase tension, characterization, and pacing--just for starters. Click To Tweet
For comparison purposes, I’m going to include a sample of that new scene below the signature. You can read it in its original form in the post about sex scenes. (It would make this post unnecessarily long to include both here.) I loved the new scene so much, it’s the main sample I used for marketing purposes. That is why deep revision is so important.
A sample from Infamous:
“Crap, now you’re going to be sweet? Now?” She tangled her fingers through the hair that covered her face and pushed it away. Next thing he knew, she’d wrapped her arms around his waist.
“Justine? Um… what are you doing?”
“I’m hugging you. Taking emotional comfort.”
“Like a leech.”
“Haven’t you ever hugged before?”
“I’ve never hugged anyone I wasn’t going to have sex with.”
“We’re not having sex.” She squeezed him tighter and rested her head on his shoulder. “Hug me back.”
Sawyer lifted his arms and wrapped them around her, his hands cupping her shoulders, pulling her closer. He dropped his head to rest on hers, and parts of him, so deep he couldn’t name them, pulled free and demanded his attention. Her hair smelled like fruit, the kind kids eat in the summer, juice dripping down their chins. “I’m fine with the hugging, but, just saying, I’m not responsible for any physical reaction hugging may induce.”
“Okay.” The word drifted out of her on a sigh.
He wasn’t equipped for this. There hadn’t been a lot of touching growing up, at least not the kind that didn’t end in a busted lip or a cracked rib. As an adult, there’d been lots of touching. But, not like this. The tighter he held her, the closer he wanted to be.
After a couple of minutes, he couldn’t take anymore. It seemed bigger than him, bigger and growing fast. He pulled back to look at her, hands still gripping her shoulders. “You look tired.”
“I haven’t slept since…” She tilted her head back, thinking. “I don’t remember. Couple of days.”
“So get some sleep.”
“I don’t know if I can.” She settled on the edge of the bed and looked down at her hands. “I have so many things running through my head right now.”
“I know what to do.” He slipped off the denim jacket he’d been wearing since some time last night. “Go find the least attractive thing you sleep in.”
She raised an eyebrow at him. “Why?”
“Because I said so. And because you need some sleep. You’ve got bags under your eyes big enough to hold your whole wardrobe.”
She lifted the lid of her luggage to pick through her clothes, grabbed something white she balled up in her hands, and dutifully went into the bathroom to change.
Sawyer looked at the closed door and then turned to the bed. He turned down the covers on one side and turned out the lights, except for the lamp beside the bed.
When she came out and flipped the bathroom light off behind her, Sawyer wanted to tell her to try again. Her choice was anything but unattractive. She’d slipped into a gown that settled halfway between her knees and…well, places he had no business concerning himself with. The gown flounced around her, touching her nowhere except under the arms and across her chest with a black ribbon gathering the material.
She lifted one foot and slid it behind the other. “Poppies.”
He dragged his gaze to her face. “What?”
“The flowers on the gown are poppies. They make you drowsy.” She slid her gaze to the side. “I found that amusing when I bought it.”
He held up his hands. “It’s fine. Get in the bed.”
“I don’t do pajamas. I have a thing against sleeping in pants. I like the way the sheets feel, cool and slippery, on my legs.” She looked past him to a corner of the room. “I talk a lot when I’m uncomfortable.”
“It’s fine.” He shifted toward the bed and then paused as her words sunk in. “Wait, you have panties on, though, right?”
He tilted his head to glance at her with a frown, trying not to look at her bare legs. “Are they hot?”
“Right, no. Doesn’t matter. Lay down.” She stopped beside him at the foot of the bed and they stared at the down-turned blankets. “I want to make sure you get some sleep. You get under the covers, and I’ll lie on top so I don’t invade your not-pants-wearing space.”
“You’re volunteering to give me emotional comfort.”
“Shut up, Justine.”
She hopped into bed, twisting to pull the covers to the top of her shoulders, and lay on her side. He climbed on top of the blanket, scooted close. “Do people send you designer nightgowns, too?”
“Trying to sleep here.”
Her body moved in the rhythm of breath, slowed down, as her muscles softened and relaxed. He wanted to kiss her shoulder, to press his lips against it, to find out if it was as soft as it looked. And what was that scent? Her hair fanned across her pillow and it smelled like… watermelon? Strawberries? Apples?
She interrupted his fruity thoughts, her voice soft and blurry. “Thank you.”
“I’m an ass.”
“You’re okay right now, though.”
“I’m using you, right now, because I like how you smell. I’m an ass.”
She didn’t speak again, and he realized she was out. He should get up. Go to his own room. Get away from the bare legs, under the covers, and the shoulder, and the hair. Try to put whatever had awoken during that hug back to rest. In a minute, he’d get his jacket and go.