Revising a novel is important. Going through a series of drafts and focusing on things like characterisation, plot, setting and pacing is where I think a novel is really created. Sadly it’s not produced on the first draft.
The thought of going through the revision process once you’ve slaved away at your first draft can be daunting and leave you with an uncomfortable feeling. Trust me, I feel the same at the end of every first draft. The thought of taking it apart and undoing all my hard work is enough to put me off my dinner.
However, after a few weeks when you return to your first draft and read back what you wrote, you realise why revision is so crucial. Seriously time away from your first draft is so valuable. That’s where you read your first draft through the gaps in your fingers whilst groaning.
For this blog post I am going to show you the similarities between revising your novel and dressmaking which will, hopefully, make you see the importance of drafting.
For noting – I have tried to follow the main steps of dressmaking. I know dressmaking is complex, full of many steps and is an artform, but the purpose of this post I have stuck to what I feel are the main steps.
- View your first draft as the fabric and your novel plan is the garment design pattern.
- When you first start working with a piece of fabric it does not look like a dress. It’s shapeless and there’s nothing dress like about it. Sadly your first draft will not look like a novel either. It too will be shapeless and it might have a few holes in places 😁
- In the same way a roll of fabric needs cutting, measuring and sewing, your first draft novel needs cutting, shaping and adjusting.
- Measuring the fabric and producing the shape of the pattern is similar to looking at your novel plan and seeing whether your novel follows it. You will need to make plot adjustments to your second draft if your first draft does not resemble your novel plan. You might even need to hack / radically trim your draft novel in places or you might need to add more chapters.
- The dressmaker will focus on indivdual parts like sleeves, the body, the neckline etc. This is simiilar for you, the writer. You will need to look at parts such as characters, plot, setting and pacing.
- Once the dressmaker is happy with the parts of the garment they will begin to assemble it. This is similar to what you will need to do once you’re happy with all the parts you’ve worked on. I find the fourth or fifth drafts are where I finally see a novel taking shape. For me these are the drafts where I have sewn up all my parts and I am starting to see my book. It’s no longer a shapeless roll of fabric 🙂
- The dressmaker will go through a series of fitting checks to see whether the dress fits and their measurements were correct. The dress may need correcting in places as it might be too tight or too loose. This is similar for you, the writer, and that final draft where you will go through it and get a feel for whether all the parts of your novel work. Does everything come together or are there parts which need tightening. Does it follow your plan?
- Things don’t always go to plan when making a dress and the same can be said with revising a novel. Sometimes there are issues with the choice of material, the measurements and the pattern which means the dressmaker has to go back several steps. This is similar to when you read through your novel after several drafts and you realise it still needs more work. Character arcs might need refining, scenes might need more work and don’t get me started on the work needed to get those first few chapters right.
- They say you should make clothes with love and I think the same can be said with novels – revise them with love. ❤️
- Enjoy the process of revision and be proud of your well made novel!
Love the analogy, Lucy 😊 📚 👗
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I am often amused by the similarity between many of our creative processes, even gardening…
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Thanks for this great metaphoric guide. Within writing i am always bad in ironing the fabric.;-) Best wishes, Michael