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?


Carrie Beckort said...

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.

Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

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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