“Doing a seventeenth revision on a project does not make a writer an artist or move him above the writer hoi polloi any more than dressing entirely in black or wearing tweed jackets with leather elbow patches or big, black drover coats. These are all affectations, and smack of dilettantism. Real writers, and real artists, finish books and move on to the next project.”
Holly Lisle, Vision: A Resource for Writers, May-June 2002
I do love the no-nonsense quote from Holly there. In order to get a novel completed and get busy on the next, she advocates a one-pass manuscript revision, the full formula of which can be seen here:
I'm not always in agreement with what Holly has to say, and certainly, the one-pass manuscript revision seems, at first, like some kinda mythical beast: fill all the plot holes, delete all the extraneous scenes (and alter references to them), insert all the missing but needed scenes, hone the plot and character arcs, ramp up the tension and conflict wherever possible, all in one pass? And, aaand also, polish the prose.
I'm gonna give it a go!
I don't think it's possible, but I'm still going to give it a go.
Actually, I've already started. I've got to say that this idea is so big, so sexy, so damned in your face, that executing it is a highly engaging process, and... dare I say.. fun!
It's very satisfying to go through a novel leaving no stone unturned, to face every li'l barrier, every place where I know something needs doing, to mark it, make notes, and move on.
It's really interesting to find that I can't hide from myself when doing this. If problem x exists, then leaving it will necessitate a second pass on the manuscript, and that defeats the object. So I find myself being quite strict. I force myself to tackle issues in the novel that I knew needed tackling, but which I basically wanted to shove under the carpet and hope the novel would kinda work for someone, somewhere, and that'd be that.
Whether the one-pass manuscript revision is really possible, I don't know, but I think the sheer amount of lessons learned from attempting it will make the endeavor worthwhile.