Monday, 31 March 2014

How I Revise & Edit

I'm in the middle of some revisions for my MS THE QUIETEST KIND, so I thought I would share exactly what it is that I do when I revise/edit and why I do it. Everyone revises differently--just like everyone writes differently: plotter, pantser, linear, non-linear, bursts of thousands of words or months of low word counts (like me). So here's what I do when it comes to the editing and revising process.

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After I type The End, it's time to walk away. I know this is an oft repeated piece of advice, but getting some space really is the best thing you can do for your story. I like to take the time to start brainstorming/drafting something new or to do something really productive like start binge-watching something on Netflix. After six months of being with the same characters, I know I won't be able to see the problems without spending some time away from them.


Once our time apart is over, it's time for a read-through. I HAVE to print the manuscript out for this part--I think there's something about seeing it in a different format that wakes my eyes and mind up and helps me pay closer attention.

(I call this a read-through but I'm actually incapable of reading my work without editing it, so it's more of a read-and-make-notes-and-savagely-cut-scenes-through. Some people read and make lists of all the changes that need to be made, but I know if I don't do them then and there I'd completely forget what it was I wanted to do.)

This part is really necessary for me because it takes me so long to finish a draft that the characters at the end are sometimes wildly different from the characters at the beginning. I definitely make decisions as I write--I want this person to be funnier, I want that person to be sharper, I want to make more of this plot point--and so things that are cemented by the time I get to the end are just flooping jelly-like back in chapter one. This is the time to change all that!

This is also the time to change all those sentences I knew were shitty when I wrote them but didn't have the energy to spend another hour on. You know the ones I mean. Yeah. Those ones.

So, by the end of all of this I have a very marked-up manuscript, usually some extra sheets of paper ripped out of a notebook with new scenes scribbled on them, and very tired eyes.


Here's the downside to making physical edits: now I have to transfer them all back into the document on the computer! It's tedious and always a struggle for me because I have the handwriting of a drunk five-year-old and leave myself the most curious coded comments for some reason. I recommend turning your music UP and banging it out as fast as you possibly can if you have to do this.


Step away from the computer. Watch more Sons of Anarchy. Percolate.

Me too, Jax. Me too.


(And by Kindle I mean iPad Kindle app.) This is a fun part! It looks like a book. A book without physical pages or a cover or…just go with it, okay? I can (virtually) flip the pages, see what percentage done I am, and (best part) make notes. Again, seeing the MS in a different format lets me look at it differently and spot errors, lines I meant to cut but somehow are still hanging around half-formed, punctuation crazies etc. This is also the first time I ever read almost straight through, because the notes I'm making this time are usually "cut" or "fix" or tweaking a sentence slightly and so I don't stop-start so much.

Because of that, this is usually when I start to see where things are dragging or where things are going off-piste and then I can make a note to KILL those scenes. (Like yesterday, I cut a bunch of scenes I wrote during THE PRINT-IT-OUT PART that I thought at the time were absolutely vital. No, they were slowing everything down and adding nothing so…chop chop.)


Type up all those notes. (More music here.)

THE LIST OF THINGS TO DO PART (aka the part I'm at right now)

As I do all of the above, I usually make a short list of vague things to work on. And I mean very vague--here, have some examples:
  • Maybe more dance for Rose
  • More sweet moments with Audrey and Julian
  • Also fix their schedules (what classes they take, what periods), when does Julian work, when does Rose dance
Nothing that needs huge thinking time going into it, but things that can be remedied with an extra line here and there, a couple of extra mentions.

So I'll go back to the document and tackle these things, and probably also find some other parts that can be tweaked or, y'know, completely rewritten…and then it's time for:


Yes, I'll read it again, hopefully find fewer errors this time and only a small amount of changes I want to make. Then:


Type up changes. More music. Much more music.

But once that's over, it's kind of scary. Because you know what comes next?


See, once I've done allllll of the above, I figure there's probably nothing else I can do on my own except for drive myself insane. This is where CPs and betas come in. I'll send it out, get it ripped to shreds (with, y'know, maybe some nice comments thrown in there too) and then…

Start the entire process over again!

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And that is how I revise.


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