Macro, Micro


Sorry it’s so late…weather in the mountains is rainy and it took this long to get online!


David talked about authors’ and characters’ time-conscious voice this week, and it got me to thinking about the way I revise in terms of macro revisions and micro revisions. A macro rewrite, also called a textual rewrite, is a big heavy duty revision of major proportions where the plot line, character development, and other big stuff gets needed attention and revision. I do one of these for a book at about the ¾ mark, or page 250 in a 114,000 word mscpt.

When working out a book (or building a book) things change. A character may have suddenly revealed something about himself that needs to be added into the plot. A subplot line that looked good in outline may have fizzled, and another one may have found strength and taken over. Or I may have gotten irritated and killed off a character who was annoying me. BTW – it’s okay to kill off a character, and in fact, it’s my favorite thing to do when I am stuck on a plot point. At any rate, to keep the big picture fresh and clear, at about the ¾ point in a novel, I need to interweave the new and unexpected into the planned and programmed.  Not that this is the only macro revision… Oh no.  More on that later.

Micro revisions take place all along and at specific times.  When I start my day of writing, the very first thing I do – after emails and such – is a micro rewrite on the pages from the previous day’s writing. By going over it again, I can re-familiarize myself with the character’s voice, my author’s voice, and get on track for a day’s work. I may also add in a couple pages as I see things that were missed in the down dirty rough writing. (Yeah. This is a small-scale macro rewrite. *grins*) Then, after the big ¾-of-the-way-through macro rewrite, I follow up with a cover-to-(so far)-cover micro rewrite. This is where I catch (I hope) the language errors, time and setting errors, voice errors, and clarify characters’ voices.

I missed something in my last Gwen Hunter novel (suspense novel set on whitewater  rivers of Tennessee.)  It was a small but vital part of the voice clarity. In the novel, there are 5 secondary characters who flow through the entire novel – river-rats, rafting guides, kayaking paddlers. Because they were secondary characters, whom I thought of as a group rather than individuals, I failed to give each character an individual voice or dialogue cant. My editor called me on it, in her macro revision letter to me. (This is the rewrite letter that a writer might shed a few tears over, maybe cuss a bit – the big five page [or so] single spaced, rewrite letter.)

My editor liked the characters. She wanted each of them to have his own voice, history, and identity. The rewrite was actually fun. I took the time to more fully explore each character, allowing them all to grow and change and develop. The novel improved because of my editor’s great eye and the trust she had in me. She knew I could do what she was asking, though it meant having a more sizeable cast, more characters to follow around, and more…um…umph. No, it isn’t a writing term, but it kinda says what I want to say.

There were three more micro rewrites after that.

The book is grand (IMHO *laughing*). The novel drove my editor to say, “I want to take up whitewater kayaking!” Even though she is pregnant and too busy take the time.




3 comments to Macro, Micro

  • This is where I sometimes wonder if I could do more as a writer. I do a lot of polishing as I go along, but I don’t do as much rewriting as you do, Faith, and I wonder if my books suffer for it. Something for me to consider as I begin to work on my next project. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  • Faith said, “BTW – it’s okay to kill off a character, and in fact, it’s my favorite thing to do when I am stuck on a plot point.”

    Do their ghosts ever come back to haunt you? 😀

  • David, I think the best thing about this blog, is the things we pick up from one another, like the indepth work you do on your characters. That has me thinking. And in defense of my own stupidity, a lot of the *polishing* I do, is because I forgot what the heck happend and have to re-read/re-work past portions to jog the memory. (Don’t tell anyone.)

    Misty, they have never yet dared, but I admit to a *lot* of nightmares about drowning after writing Rapid Descent. And I don’t have nightmares. However, things are getting bertter in that regard. I just spent 2 days paddling the Nanty (one in cold pouring rain) and no drowning dreams.