Using Your Core to Revise

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pacific Spirit
Photo by lawmurray via Flickr

First of all, Happy International Women's Day, everybody!

Onto the blog post...

I recently finished the first draft of my first novel, and I’m currently revising it, so I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the overall picture. I still need to make sure all the characters don’t sound the same when they talk, but before that I want to make sure I have its “essence” down. What’s an essence? Hmm, well, some people call it the core of the story (check out a cool post by my crit buddy, Jade, discussing the core of her newest novel where she references a blog post by Maggie Stiefvater). I like to call it: the feeling you’re left with after you close the last page of the book.

Let’s take Twilight as an example (since it’s very popular and most people know it) and use my definition on it. The book is about a girl who falls in love with a vampire, and her life is in danger during most of the book, but especially toward the end. There are some pretty violent scenes and if you go on Amazon you’ll see that the two categories the book is under is “Love & Romance” AND “Spine-Chilling Horror.” I was very surprised to see the horror category. When I closed the book I felt pretty happy—the core of the book is the romance between the two main characters.

So after reading Jade’s post, I knew I had to identify the core of my book. During revisions I would have to shift the emphasis around in the book, and I didn’t want to lose my core. After some thinking, I realized that the core of my book is all about believing in yourself. I was very happy to find this out. It also helped me decide how to tie up some of the plot threads so that I keep the emphasis on my core and I think it made the book stronger as a whole.

How about you? What is the core of your book? Do you keep it in mind while you’re writing/revising?


Tere Kirkland said...

Mine definitely changes as I'm writing, even if I think I know what it's going to be before I get started. Sometimes I have to remind myself to keep on track, but other times I'm pleasantly surprised at the shift in the theme.

It definitely helps to know it when you're writing your synopsis and query! Great post!

Shallee said...

One of the things I do early in my first draft is to write my query letter, because that actually helps me keep close to my core as I write. It's always something I keep in mind during revisions!

Jade said...

I feel all famous-like!

Discovering my core has been so helpful in revisions. I'd probably be flailing about otherwise. I'm glad I stumbled on that post!

Elaine AM Smith said...

Good luck with the revision and editing process.
This is a great post. I loved spending time thinking about the core of my book. I wrote the core as a preparation activity before I began. I only realised then, that I'd never considered if I had remained as true to it as I'd intended.

Plamena Schmidt said...

@Tere Kirkland--I definitely have to remind myself sometimes what ideas I had when I started writing my story.

@Shallee--Great point! I should have written my query letter early on too, but I didn't think I needed it since I was so far away from querying. It wasn't until way later that I realized what a great focusing tool it could be!

@Jade--You are all famous-like!

I'm glad you stumbled on the post too : P!

@Elaine AM Smith--Thanks : )

Abby Annis said...

I think the core is the only thing that hasn't changed from my first draft. Definitely important to keep in mind as you revise. Great post! :)

Jennifer Shirk said...

Oooh, that's a really interesting take. I'm going to have to read Jade's post to find out more!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I thought the core of my book was one thing. Turns out it was something else. But what I originally thought was the core was still important to the story.

Tana Adams said...

I'm about to head into yet another round of edits. I like where you're going with this and for sure I'm going to keep this in mind.

Plamena Schmidt said...

@Abby Annis--Yeah, I get so caught up in details, I have to remind myself sometimes--especially as I revise.

@Jennifer Shirk--You're welcome. I hope it helps! And welcome to my blog : )

@Stina Lindenblatt--: P Yeah, it took me some time to find my core--I think that sometimes there might even be more than one.

@Tana Adams--Thanks! I hope it helps : )

Lisa Gail Green said...

Nice post. I don't always see the theme until I've finished the first draft, but it's always good in revisions, to go back and add bits here and there to make sure you're keeping it in mind.

Talli Roland said...

Definitely. Knowing what the core is and where my characters are going is the *only* way I can revise.

Plamena Schmidt said...

@Lisa Gail Green--Thanks!

@Talli Roland--Definitely.