I always like to field test my longer pieces to see what kind of comments I’ll get. I originally sent out queries and some sample chapters in May of last year to seven agents. The comment from one of the agents was the most helpful criticism I received. “Hello Richard, thanks for having sent me a portion of your The River novel. I'm afraid that although the writing is nice and has good atmosphere, I’m afraid that several of the characters just didn't fully resonate enough with me, especially Alison.”
His comments became my driver. I looked up how to create resonating characters on the internet to make sure I knew what was meant by his comment. The research led to the study of character arcs. After reading “Creating Character Arcs” by K.M. Weil and using the chapter summaries in her book, pages of notes I’d accumulated, comments from other writers and numerous scribblings from deceased family members, the novel kept opening out into new areas with the characters becoming more resonate with each draft.
I recently read an article in Writer about revision. The author of the article discussed a ten step revision plan. So how many drafts are enough? “The River” is now in its 27th revision. It’s not that I disagree with the article—writing is revision is revision is revision and writers shouldn’t be constrained by the number of revisions. For me each new draft was like reading a new manuscript.