I’ve finished my rough draft in Step 4. Now it’s time for the next step: revision!
Revisions are generally what take the most time for me — mostly because I put off doing them. It’s only taken twenty novels or so to really grasp what revisions mean.
Old Me thought revision was checking for typos, or literally retyping the entire book and makes changes as I went.
After taking some SCBWI workshops and reading a few books about the revision process, my revision stages now look more like this:
- Transfer my rough draft into a Scrivener document, parsing out chapters (and scenes, if necessary).
- Identify inciting incident, midpoint, climax, and the breaks into Act 2 and Act 3, and look at the novel’s structure: did I spend too much time in Act 1? Is the climax not climax-y enough?
- Read the entire manuscript, making notes of areas that need work, scenes that need to be moved, transitions that I skipped. Remember all those brackets I talked about using when writing the rough draft? Here’s where I’d go back to fill those in.
- Make the large structural changes.
- Read through for continuity.
- Read through for typos, grammar, and language – reading out loud is a huge help when it comes to this part, because I often find that I’ve repeated myself or used the same word too many times or omitted words.
A few other tools I might use during revisions:
- Plot Board – I made mine using a tri-fold presentation poster board, colored Sharpies, colored Post-It Notes, and binder clips. It’s a great way to visually map out your novel’s structure. You could also use an empty wall or a bulletin board.
- Plot Chart – Across the top of a large piece of graph paper, number your chapters, and along the side, include plot elements and characters, then go through your novel and check the corresponding box if you’ve included that element or character in the chapter. This way you can map out if you’ve consistently maintained plot threads throughout your story. There is software called Plottr that does something similar.
- Critiques – My critique group is essential in finding areas of my writing that need improvement. You could also use beta readers, or post to a site like Fictionpress or Wattpad. There is a huge difference between critique you’ll get from each of these. Unless you have a dedicated beta reader who is more of a critique partner, the latter resources are likely to give you more of the reader reaction, and it will be harder to figure out what to change or work on. A trusted critique group or partner will point out areas that need improvement, although sometimes overly critical feedback can really stymie your creative juices – which is why I often wait until my rough draft is complete before presenting to my critique group. It’s also a good idea to have your work complete enough in your vision of it before showing it to anyone else. There are always exceptions – I’ve certainly posted works in progress to Wattpad or Archive of Our Own and successfully completed them as I also receive feedback.
Essentially, when doing revisions, you’ll want to do several revisions. The first revision is for Big Picture problems. The second is for continuity and making sure the themes and plot threads and characters are consistent throughout the story. And the third is the micro-level revision, focusing on grammar and word choice.
You may have thought writing the rough draft would be the hardest step, but I find revision to be much harder! The next step gets even harder, when prepping the novel for submission begins.
How do you deal with revisions? Give me some tips in the comments!