Thursday, December 6, 2018

Notes on a revision

Greetings, readers! Depending on where you are located in the world, it could be bone-chilling cold or a balmy 70 degrees or monsoon season. Whatever your weather, I hope your holiday tidings are sweet. You know what's really fun to do in December? 😏 Revise a novel!

December is the worst. I blink after Thanksgiving and it's Christmas. But, typically, December is when I find myself finishing up a manuscript. And because New Years is a pretty cut-and-dry beginning, I like to have that same manuscript done before the Ball drops. It makes me feel good. Something off my annual plate.

Honestly I love revisions. I've already put words on the page, now I get to make them look pretty. I mean there is way more to it than that, but for me, the hard part is over. It's time to make the story shine.

All writers have a revision process. Some revise and edit constantly before adding to their word count. I have a tendency to revise half-way through the drafting process. I make structural and plot changes, kill or add a character, change villains. Etc, etc. Then I rewrite a lot. Then I tweak the plot some more. Then I finish. And while I'm doing that I make a bulleted list of things that need to be fixed. These are things that I don't need to stop writing to worry about. And this bulleted list is literally notes on scrap paper. I work in Scrivener, but I find my revision notes are best kicking it old-school. My current ones are on graph paper.

I'll show you a few.

  • Make weather descriptions more applicable to early October.
  • Does Clark miss Forestport? Make it clear if she does.
  • Establish sister's criminal past.
  • Remember to firmly establish Clark's PTSD.
  • Change Yelena's name to Sylvia
  • Draw a map to get bearings
  • Solidify where Wendy lives
I have a ton more, but then I'm giving away spoilers. For me, a bulleted list is the most efficient way to revise. No elaborate charts or grids. Just notes that I can cross off as a I complete them. When revising, the key is to start big, then work your way small. 

Only then, when the story is strong, do I form chapters. In Scrivener, I group scenes into chapters based on word count. It's incredibly arbitrary, but so far, no one has complained.

Once I tackled the bulleted list, I pass the book onto trusted readers. At that point, I incorporate feedback.

Everyone talks about plotting vs. pantsing, and process. What's your writing process? But rarely do I hear about the revision process. What does that look like? It's daunting to write a book in the first place, just to go back over it a trillion times trying to correct all its flaws. It's like fixing the universe. There is so much to do. But all writers do it. So....

How do you revise?


  1. I do a bit of everything. Like you, my revision notes are currently written in a notebook I keep next to me as I write. I just started using Scrivener, so I'm not sure if I'll use that or keep with my old process going forward. I sometimes revise as I go, but if it's a big revision that might cause ripples of other changes I'll wait until I know for sure it's a change I want to make - and sometimes that's not until I finish the manuscript. I'm in a new situation now where I'm contemplating a change that will have lots of ripple effects and it's kind of freaking me out as I hate holes so I don't want to miss anything the changes will affect. I need to think on it some more, but I think it might be the right way to go.

    1. As much as I use and love Scrivener, I find I need my notes on paper next to the computer. Seems like we have a similar system.


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