Developing A Revision Process

Here’s how I’m revising so far. First, some stats.

Shitty First Draft was:

  • 351 pages
  • 94,926 words
Marginally Okay Second Draft is, so far: 
  • 63 pages
  • 18, 204 words
This is what my computer screen looks like when I’m in revising mode. On the left is Draft 2 (at 125% zoom) and the right is Draft 1. 
Last time I revised anything, I used Track Changes extensively on the Shitty Draft. I printed it out and marked it all up and realized that there were some major issues and I wasn’t sure how to go about fixing it all. 
So I was reading around the blogosphere and peeking into writing craft books, seeing if there were any hard-and-fast methods I could use to actually revise this book. 
So, you know how there are a myriad of ways to write a novel? Yeah, turns out there are a myriad of processes to revise one as well. In general though, the advice is always to let the piece rest after the first draft is done–distance is important in perceiving the weaker points and appreciating the work’s strengths. Then the advice turns to printing it out and marking it up…
I think I’ll do that whole thing after I’ve finished with the Marginally Okay Draft, because by then, hopefully, I can worry more about detail, language and description rather than continuity, structure, POV, and characters.
So what I’m doing right now is this: I have both copies open next to each other. I scroll to the corresponding scene in Draft One that I’m working on in Draft Two. I read it. If there are lines I like, a particular description or even a passage, I cut and paste into the new draft. 
When the cut and paste is longer than a line or two, I edit it down. Is that word necessary? Could a better word be found? Is it correct for the period, but still accessible for modern readers? 
I’m also writing new scenes and new narrative. I’m shortening and lengthening scenes. I’ve moved scenes, dialogue, character introductions around, all for structural purposes and for a better impact. I’ve rewritten scenes due to a change of setting or to achieve a stronger, clearer POV. Research gets inserted as discreetly as possible. 
All of this is done with the ultimate revision question: “Is this scene necessary? What am I saying with this? Does it hold its weight?”
If it doesn’t, it gets cut. 
I’ve decided that a motif of this story is gossip and perception, i.e, the parentage of the Keegan daughters is often discussed by the villagers. 
Also, different people see Mady differently. As in, some people think she’s very dark. Others see that she’s actually light-skinned. Some notice right away that she is mixed; others do not. Others perceive her as completely black. Her father sees both sides in her. This is the element where I’m writing what I know, by the way. 
So, I’m wondering, fellow writers out there in the ether, what do you do to revise your work? 

2 thoughts on “Developing A Revision Process

  1. Rei – it seems my writing process is much like your process for revising. Lots of cutting and pasting. Like lots. Actually, what I really do is put words on a page that I like. Just words or short phrases, in no particular order. Language that \”feels good.\” Then I cut and paste, putting everything in the approximate location. Then I make those words or phrases into proper sentences. Then I make comprehensive paragraphs. It feels like putting together a collage. Of course, I never tried to write a long novel. (Except that one time that you somehow convinced me to start Nanowrimo…). I'm a big fan of multi-colored highlights in word, not gonna lie. When revising, those are my big go-tos. Those comment options in google docs are kind of neat too. Do they have that in word? In googledocs you can tag something in your writing, make a comment about it, and when you have fixed it you can simply click \”resolve\” and the comment disappears. In the end there is still MUCH to be said for hard copies, tangible neon sticky notes and a black sharpie. 


  2. Hey you!Yeah, my first draft process has been shaped by NaNo–just sort of a sloppy,   purging thing that sort of adheres to a general plotline or an outline. Word has a function called Track Changes–you can do comment bubbles. You can see what you decided to delete and what you've added. You can make it multi-colored. You can force it on your friends and have them add their names in their comment bubbles on it. I think it was with Last Request that I really went all-out on the highlighters and those mini-flag things on the hard copy. This book, however, turned out longer with other complications, like the research, so while I'm DEFINITELY going to end up on the floor with a pack of highlighters and flags and perhaps some comments from some lovely readers, I want to get the structure and transitions and the actual plot  down-pat first. Because I remember reading the first draft of Last Request, all highlighted, and not being sure how to fix things after I'd marked it all up.I'm cutting/pasting BUT rewriting, too. I guess it's step one of my revision process.  Thank you for your comment! 


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