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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

RTW: How I Revise

Road Trip Wednesday is a blog carnival, where YA Highway’s contributors and readers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s take on the topic.

This Week's Topic is: For many, December is a post-NaNoWriMo revision haze! How do you approach revising? Any tips or tricks or resources you can share?

I’m just going to come right out and say it: I hate revisions. (Remember that time I so artistically illustrated how I feel about them? Still do.) 

It’s not that I don’t love what they do for my book (that is, make it infinitely better than it was before). And it’s not that I’m necessarily terrible at revising. But revising is hard. I mean, 2,786 divided by 9,087 in your head kind of hard. (And if that’s not hard for you, have you considered taking a stab at time travel?)

Most of the time I stare at my story knowing what to do to make it better but not understanding how I’ll ever be able to accomplish that. My solution: Start big, work in batches, and take breaks between revisions.

There’s a good chance I’ll blog in more detail about my revision process in the future,* so for now, here’s the abridged version:

1. Read it. After taking some time off, I’ll go back and read the whole book, making notes as I go but not spending too much time on it. Mostly I want to get a feel for the book as a whole, as a reader would see it.

2. Tackle the big issues. There’s no point in doing line edits until larger revisions are done since chunks may be cut. So I first spend time on the biggies: pacing, plot, character development, setting, yada yada yada.

3. Brainstorm. Because fixes for big-picture problems never reveal themselves to me in dreams and/or drug-induced stupors, I need to brainstorm how I’ll spin my crap of a story into gold. Or at least steel with a believable gold paint job.

4. Revise in sections. When I consider revising an entire manuscript I get the sudden urge to hurl myself off of a tall building. Hence my love for working in small batches. I work my way through the problems from those that will create the most changes throughout to the one that will create the least. Scrivener is great for this because I can add all of my notes in the sidebar then create a document full of the big problems I’ll need to fix. I can keep my list of issues or my brainstormed list of fixes in one window while I revise in the other. 

5. Start big, end small. Once I’ve finished revising based on big-picture issues (synonym: rewriting), I’ll take on smaller problems that may be specific to a scene or chapter. Here still, I’ll work in small batches, tackling one chapter at a time. It makes a huge set of revision notes seem much more manageable. And it makes leaping from tall buildings in a single bound sound less tempting.

6. Lather, rinse, repeat. You know, until my manuscript is looking as shiny as Pantene-commercial hair. Eventually, once the story is in good shape, Ill tackle line edits. 

What are your revision tips?

*Some time before 2015, definitely. 

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