Revise. It feels like a four letter word. Especially when you’re riding the high of finishing a first draft. Now I know some authors love to revise, and some even look forward to it. Only for me it can be extremely difficult. I understand it’s all part of the writing process, and I adore how revisions can transform a story, but ugh. In order to fix a manuscript you have to break it first. That stings. A lot.
So how do you destroy your baby and the characters you’ve most likely fallen in love with? Where in the world do you start?
First, you need a plan. But not every plan works for every author, therefore I’ll share what works best for me.
- After completing a first draft, I like to take a step back. Some authors only need a day, but I need much longer. Weeks, if not a couple of months of separation. It’s good to have that time away so I can come back with fresh eyes.
- Next I do a read through. As I’m doing this, I’m taking notes on any discrepancies I find, scenes I’d like to change, pacing problems and details I plan to add. I’m also paying attention to the Three Act structure. Do events fall near where they should? Do I even want them to? I’ve been told it’s a good thing to learn the writing “rules” but it’s also okay to break them.
- I’m on alert for info dumping. Am I including too much back story? Is it possible to weave it in any better? And most importantly – do I even need it at all? Do the details I’ve included pertain to the present story I’m telling? Remember: readers want a book to move forward, not backward. It’s best to cut when you can.
- Are all of my subplots resolved? Does everything tie together the way it should? Are there holes that need filled? Often times, beta readers can help point out these issues. Authors, I think, tend to be too close to their stories to see things as clearly as someone who is reading it for the first time.
- If I didn’t make an outline in the beginning now is a good time to create one. Just so I have a quick overview of the entire tale. It’s hard to keep 80,000 words straight in my head. Most days I feel lucky I can remember my own name!
- Finally, it’s time to dive in chapter by chapter. Using my notes and outline, I fix what needs to be fixed. I work on sentence structure and replace boring words and generic descriptions to give them more oomph.
Revision can be a long and sometimes challenging road, but in the end, I’m always happy I did it. So this is my process, but what works best for you?