Onward ho: revisions!

So now that the first draft of the novel is done, I move on to revisions. I’m still working out what the best approach to this is for me personally. While Stars is my sixth drafted novel, it’s only the third I’ll have done revisions on, so I’m still kinda figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t.

For instance, do I dive right in, or wait? On Magestone I think I put it aside for a couple weeks, though it was long enough ago now I can’t remember exactly. For 619 I thought I should follow the recommended guidelines and set it aside for a month… or two – I ended up starting to write Secrets, and kept on saying as soon as the draft of Secrets was done I’d let it gel while I returned to 619. But then I was so excited about Secrets I never got back to 619. Still haven’t.

Secrets, on the other hand, I was so pleased about that as soon as I finished that first draft I went back and fixed up all the plot holes and stuff that I’d kept track of while I was drafting and sent it off to my critique partners. I was still learning to read my gut at the time so I probably wouldn’t have known, but in retrospect, if I knew then what I know now about my gut feelings on things I should have waited and addressed those issues I was picking up on instead of sending it off right away.

So that’s my plan for Stars. I don’t really want to wait long to get to it, for fear of losing my enthusiasm, but I also know I need a little bit of time to assess my gut feelings on things. I’ve loaded it onto my ereader, and today I’ll sit down and read it all in one go over a day or two, without making any changes (although obvious things I’ll make notes of in my writing notebook to address later). This will let me see the entire story much better, like an artist stepping back from her painting to see the full picture and assess how it all works as a whole. Then I’ll put it aside for a week, no more than two, while I mull it over and see if there’s anything I’m feeling uncertain about – usually a sure sign it needs changing, in my experience.

Next week I’ll start making all those changes and touch-ups, and then perhaps the week after that it’ll be off to my alpha readers!

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6 responses to “Onward ho: revisions!

  1. Dear lord, just one week for revisions? Wow. Definitely takes me longer. Yeah, if I let some things gel & start thinking about ways to amp up the plot/tension, sometimes I get some really cool ideas before revising.

    • Well, depends on which stage of revisions I’m at, and also how much revising the manuscript requires, of course. (Also remember I don’t work a 9-to-5, so I can put more hours in in a week than many writers.) I’ve found with each novel I’ve written my first drafts have gotten stronger, requiring less subsequent revision. This being my sixth and I still anticipate putting in a week, you can imagine how my early ones were. ;)

  2. I finished writing my first novel this summer, but I’ve been procrastinating starting revision ever since. I’ve never done much revision before, especially not of anything this big, so I find it more than a little intimidating. There are some things that I know need to be changed, but I’m not sure how to go about actually making those changes. Like Sarah, I am amazed that you can finish your revision so quickly.

    • I can sympathize, Heather. It’s a daunting undertaking – perhaps even more so than writing the novel in the first place. It’s definitely something I’ve grown better at with practice, and after probably at least a dozen revision passes over my various novels I feel relatively comfortable with it.

      Here’s my secret: start at the beginning and just work your way through. You’ll probably already know a lot of the things you need to change, so draft up a quick list you can refer to. Then I’d recommend putting your manuscript into Scrivener (if you didn’t draft it there) and breaking it into individual chapters. And then, just start with chapter one, and read it through, and make your changes as you go. Do a chapter a day, or a scene a day, or some concrete chunk of text. Read the chapter through, and when you get to a spot where something needs changing, change it. If that means deleting a huge section and rewriting it, do that. Or deleting the whole scene/chapter and rewriting it. If I know I have to insert X into a scene but I’m not sure where, I read through the scene to assess my options then go back to choose the best location. You’ll probably find, as you’re reading scene-by-scene, other little things that need tweaking that weren’t on your list, too.

      In some ways it’s not that different from drafting – if you try to think about writing 80k words in a complex story, that seems daunting. If you start with Chapter One and just keep putting one word after another, eventually you’ll have a novel.

      • Thanks for all those tips! I do have my draft broken into chapters (and sub-sections within the chapters) already, so that should make things simpler, I think. Like most things, just getting started in the first place is the hardest part. Once I do get started, I’ll probably be fine. Anyway, thanks again for the reply to my comment. I think you may have given me the courage I need to start!

        • As a habitual procrastinator, I can relate to the difficulty in simply getting started on something. Good luck with it! I’m sure that once you actually get going you’ll find it’s not nearly as daunting as it seemed.

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