First round edits, part 5: Big picture pass (and plot development)

Sorry about the late post all! For those of you who don't know, I'm in the middle of first-round edits for The House of a Thousand Dolls, and I'm blogging about the process. Feel free to chime in with questions, suggestions or general awesomeness.

At this point, I'd been working on the edits for about a week-and-a-half. I had gone through both the edit letter and the marked up manuscript and made notes for each. I had reorganized my characters, reordered my scenes. and figured out how I was going to fix some of the larger problems.  My book was in pieces.

It was time to start stitching it back together.

Step 5: The Big Picture Pass.

For this one, I sat down with my notes and manuscript in one hand and my coffee in the other and I started at the beginning.  I went through the entire book verrrrry slowly. (At least it felt slow.)  I did a lot on this pass, including smoothing out rough transitions, cleaning up the mess from the Great Character Massacre and fixing the specific trouble spots that Sarah had noted.

But the main thing I worked on in the big picture pass was plot development. There were three main arcs that needed to be strengthened and I kept each in mind as I went through the story.

Mystery:  Though my book is primarily a fantasy, it's structured like a murder mystery. Unfortunately, about two-thirds of the way through, the mystery started to sag. There weren't enough suspects, and the ones I did weren't as believable as they should be. So I started looking for opportunities for other people to act suspicious, and reasons why they could be guilty and wove those into the narrative.

Tension and Emotional Stakes: I tend to be very understated in my writing as far as emotions go. I'd rather tell you what's happening and have you imagine what the character is feeling then go into detail on it myself. But the flip side of that is, if you don't show enough of your character's internal arc, they don't feel realistic.

If something awful happens to your MC--and a lot of awful things happen in this book--and they don't react with the proper degree of shock, horror, sadness, etc, then your audience won't connect with them very well.  It's a fine balance, and not one I'm naturally good at. So while I was putting the book back together, I made sure to amp up the emotions involved.

Romance: My tendency to under-write my character's emotions was very obvious here. Not only am I not naturally good at emotional scenes, I have a history of avoiding flat-out romantic ones. My preference when writing romance is to hint and flirt and develop a slow and deep emotional connection before anything even happens.

Unfortunately--or fortunately-- for me, my main character starts out the book in a fully developed romantic relationship. This pretty much forced me to write exactly the kind of scenes I've always avoided. *sigh* But I still needed more. In the revision, I looked for ways to make the relationship even tighter. (Also I added a make-out scene. Or two.)

The big picture pass was by far the longest and most labor-intensive part of the process. (At least so far. I just finished it.) But when it was done, I had more than just a collection of notes and scrambled-up scenes.

I had a book again. And it felt great.

What do you look for in a big picture pass?

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Fabric art in the header by Carol Riggs.