I mean, inconsistencies.
Last week, I posted about my current revisions on Lodestar. In the comments of that WiP Wednesday post, The Empty Pen asked, “How do you decide what to do with your inconsistencies?”
First off, thanks for asking. It actually made it a little easier to deal with them because I actually had to think through the process before I started so I knew how to answer.
As to how I decide what to do, it’s a 2-step process.
This works best after a few drafts so you’re intimately acquainted with your dust bunnies. (Seriously those inconsistencies breed like dust bunnies. Turn your head for one minute and they multiply.) I honestly didn’t catch these inconsistencies until I was reading through prior to my sixth draft in order to create a new revision outline. (Links to my outlining and revising process should be found in the sidebar.)
The first step is to note what the inconsistencies are. For me, I first noted them in that revision outline. After that I transferred the inconsistencies to a sticky note on my desktop. (I’m a Mac girl, sorry.) This was so that my revision outline was a little less cluttered.
On this draft, after I’d gotten my revision outline and gone through it highlighting as I saw fit and marking the pages with sticky flags, I started in on the revisions. The first thing I did was take care of any major cuts since those might affect any inconsistencies. After that was done, I got down to brass tacks.
I opened that sticky note so I could read exactly what my inconsistencies were. I picked a highlighting color (from the myriad color options in the word processing program I use) and everywhere that inconsistency shows up I highlighted. Repeat that process for all your inconsistencies, using a different color for each. (It’s helpful at this point to keep a log of which color specifies what so your color choices are consistent.)
Any random issues that came up (for instance, this book deals a lot with gravity so I did sadly hit a couple of random issues that weren’t really an inconsistency but needed my attention), I picked a color for each type.
After your highlighting is done save. Save after you fix each inconsistency and have eliminated one highlighter color.
Now it’s time to scan through the moments where your inconsistency shows up. Read through them all at once so you know which directions you waffled in as you wrote. You know your story best and after X number of drafts, you’re very intimately acquainted with it. This knowledge can illuminate exactly how making a decision in any direction you went will serve the story. Sometimes what serves the story best is taking the option which requires the least amount of words to actually describe in prose. Sometimes not.
Once you’ve decided which route to take, scroll back up to page one. Scroll page by page through your manuscript so you’re working chronologically. (Assuming your book is written chronologically. It doesn’t have to be. Ooh, shiny.) Make whatever fixes you need to that earliest instance of the inconsistency to set up why it’s that way and then proceed to bring all the rest of the spots highlighted in that color into line with that decision. As you fix each spot, remove the highlighter.
For one of my major gravity issues, I decided it would work best if gravity were perhaps a bit malleable for a certain character. So I went in and added an explanation of how that would work for this character. I did that early on so that thereafter I wouldn’t have to reiterate the explanation. It’s established and so the reader can either suspend their disbelief or not.
With each inconsistency, start at page one. Save after each has been resolved.
More to come on Thursday about the use of highlighter in your word processing program and the manuscript file.