The first thing I do when revising is find out what's wrong with the book structurally. There's no sense in tweaking syntax when you have scenes missing or scenes that need to be cut or rearranged.
Take my book for example. (The working title is Roses and Mirrors.) Ivy gets trapped in three different fairy tales. (The reasons for her entrapment are explained in the novel.) The first fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast. (It's very different from the Beauty and the Beast on the blog.)
...Anyway, Ivy is in Beauty and the Beast and I'm marking changes that I need to make to plot, character, setting, etc... As I'm going along, I realize my plot is... lacking. The stakes aren't high enough. The more I read, the more frustrated I get with myself. There are entire scenes with little to no conflict!
I think about what I can do to raise the stakes, to make the conflict more agonizing, but I can't come up with anything horrible enough.
So I ask a friend. He writes thrillers, so I figure he must have some idea on how to torture characters. I send the following email:
Beauty and the Beast is a complete do-over, plot-wise. There are some great one-liners and descriptions in there that are keepers, but I won’t get into that until the final stages. There just isn’t enough conflict or risk. No real stakes. Just a confused girl living her new life in a fairy tale with a few minor changes to it.
This is your strong point. How would you throw a wrench into Beauty and the Beast if there were two girls in the castle? I’m already considering pipe bomb.
Well, we're in fairy-tale land. You want conflict. My first thought was to have Ivy accidentally cause some great catastrophe. Have her inadvertently cause the death of either [Beauty] or the Beast.
Excuse me while I finish cackling.
Okay, so talk about disaster. It seems obvious--killing off a character is supposed to be a go-to strategy for shaking things up. The thought never really occured to me, since there are only three characters to speak of in this segment.
Of course, I can't ACTUALLY kill one of them. At least... not without some serious magic. But maybe a more metaphorical death, or death in a different sense?
As of now, I have BIG plans for the revision. I'm so excited about this.
This is why it's important to make friends with other writers.