Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Revising Your Novel in Stages


I'm on a number of writing forums and one of the complaints I hear most often is about how hard it is to revise. (Yeah, okay -- I'm the one doing most of the complaining.) Feedback from betas and CPs is a great way to start. They let you know the 'big picture' errors and can find those niggling writing habits you aren't even aware of. But when you look at the entire ms, it seems like you'll never get through it. Here are some steps to help you.

1. Yes, revisions are harder than the Twelve Trials of Hercules, so just suck it up and get started. 
2. MAKE A COPY OF THE ORIGINAL MS AND EDIT ON THAT ONE ONLY. Put the original in another folder in case you need to go back to it.
3. If there are any big problems (plot holes, missing scenes, character-arc catastrophes), hash those out first, figure out where they'll go in the ms, and write rough drafts of the fixes using a different color-font.
4. Start on Ch 1, read through your beta/CP notes, and rewrite as you go. It's hard to kill your darlings, so don't force yourself to make big changes at first if it doesn't feel right. 
5. When working on a chapter, don't try to fix everything at once. Divide up what you need to do into stages, like cutting excess description first. When that's done, go back and get rid of cliched prose. After that, concentrate on the voice (or whatever your weaknesses are.)
6. At some point, this chapter will become your worst enemy and you'll contemplate deleting the whole wretched thing. When you find your finger hovering over the delete button -- GO ON to the next chapter or go watch TV. This stage of the revision is completed if you want to keep your sanity.
7. When you reach the end of the ms, celebrate, eat cake, and crow in all your forums! You did it!
8. Now, go back to Ch 1 and begin it all again.


13 comments:

Kelly Hashway said...

I print my MS and use colored post it flags and colored pens to make revisions more fun. :)

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Great post. And you revise and revise and revise and then one day ...

cleemckenzie said...

I was eating my laptop last week! Revisions are always "interesting," but when you get that WIP just right, you know the pain has been worthwhile.

Thanks for your visit at the Write Game. I enjoyed your story about the city and its goats. Glad those little beasties still have the right of way!

Kate Larkindale said...

Oh yes. Revision hell is not fun. But it is necessary, and you know that when you're finished, your book is going to be SO much better.

I know you can do it!

Catherine Stine said...

Hahhaha, your post and that photo are funny. I actually like revision! For me, the hard part is getting that first draft completed. Thanks for the follow and I'm following you now!
Catherine Stine’s Idea City

tfwalsh said...

Number 8 made me laugh... it's so true. Like you, I take one chp at a time starting from the beginning... I tend to make notes for each future chps of things I need to remember or connect with earlier chps, so there are no holes. Great post.

Trisha Leaver said...

New to your blog. Can't tell you how excite I was to find another YA Horror writer out there. Great post on the revision process. It is a necessary evil, but one that gets easier to tackle the more you write. I am a big picture reviser -- I tend to deal with the large thread/ tone/ story arch problems first while saving the smaller character tweaks form my second pass through. You are right, CP's help a great deal. I have used the same ones for what seems like an eternity so they are fantastic at dissecting my writing and getting straight to the point.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Super points on revision. I'm saving them because I'm starting third revisions on my WIP next week, with my crip partners notes. This will help me. Have a nice weekend.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Haha. That should be crit partners. Not awake yet.

Majanka said...

Thanks for writing down your view on revisions. I HATE revisisions! I love first drafts, but everything after that makes my blood boil! I could also use some more crit partners, I suppose. I only have one now, and while she's very detailed when critizing my manuscripts, I think more than one would probably work better. :) Have "fun" revising!

Oh, and second revision is even worse that the first IMO. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

I'm a new follower.

My Blog.

Katharina Brendel said...

Uuh, yeah, revising is always fun! I have the (good?/bad?) habit of going and revising old chapters as I write so while that makes for a teeny little bit cleaner first draft it also means I am ALWAYS revising which can be not-so-fun. Oh, and one thing that is really good about using Scrivener: you can take a 'picture' of the chapter or whatever you are working in before editing and it will save that old version. No need to create multiple files!

Marsha said...

Great post. Have you ever read Stephen King's book On Writing? http://marsha4852.wordpress.com/2011/12/10/why-write/. In it he talks about killing one's darlings also. One thing he recommends is putting ones ms aside for a period of time before trying to revise and edit it, that may make it a bit easier to kill the extraneous words, scenes, or whatever.

I'm guessing you already stopped by my blog that I have linked in my message with your request on WDC to views to this blog? Thanks for that. If it wasn't you, then someone else saw your post and checked me out too.

In your profile you say you've been in Egypt for 20 years. Does that mean you were born there and are in your twenties, or that you moved there 20 years ago?

I like your WDC widget on the sidebar, I want one, have to check that out soon.

Bless- I'll be back.

Karen Riggin said...

I needed to read exactly what you said in this blog. Whew. So true. So true. Such torture. My biggest problem is that I'm always ending up with multiply versions of my manuscripts. I really, really liked your idea about saving the original and working off ONE copy. Yes, I'm going to do that. Yes, yes. Thanks!

Karen Riggin.com

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