I’ll be writing a series of blog posts the next few weeks about the tricks I’ve learned through revising, The Call (separated into Before, During, and After posts), and submission. It starts today with Revisions!
I am so excited to hibernate with my revisions this fall/winter. American Panda has already been through quite the process, having been rewritten three times to change categories (NA–>Women’s Fiction–>YA) and POV (first–>third–>first), and I thought it might be fun and beneficial to write a post about some of the things I’ve learned about revising along the way.
First and foremost, I learned that every writer’s process is different. And finding my process for both drafting and revising is an ongoing adventure that will likely differ across projects. So please take my thoughts with a grain of salt since what works for me may not work for others. It’s subjective (shocker). But hopefully you’ll find a few new things to try.
One of my favorite tricks is to have a separate Word document to copy and paste all my cutouts—passages, sentences, or phrases that aren’t quite working for various reasons. Moving them to a separate document makes it easier to cut things and murder my darlings since I’m not really murdering them—they’re safe and sound elsewhere if I ever change my mind. Most of them end up on the Cutouts document floor, but there have been times where I have re-pasted entire chapters back into my novel elsewhere, saving me from having to rewrite sections.
Another favorite trick is to color-code words and sentences. Often when I’m reading through, I’ll come across a phrase or sentence or transition that isn’t working, but I’m either unsure of how to fix it at the time or I’m on a roll editing something else. I’ll use different colors to represent different things: red for awkward wording, blue for repeated words, green for transitions, and orange for areas where I need to do research to check the validity of a fact. This allows me to flag the areas quickly and identify the problem when I return to it.
On later rounds of revision, I like to color-code new sections and changes in purple. I find this preferable to tracked changes, and it helps the newer text pop out so you can read with a more careful eye. This also came in handy when I sent my last revision back to my agent—I left the purple text in and she ended up going through my revision in a few hours and we went on submission that day!
If I’m doing a revision based on feedback (from CPs, betas, my agent or editor), I like to do the following in the listed order:
- Give the feedback a couple days to sink in, re-reading the feedback at least once a day.
- Organize the feedback into related themes if I’m dealing with feedback from more than one person.
- Brainstorm ideas.
- Over the next day, week, or month—however long it takes—I plan out exactly what I’m going to add and where. This often takes even longer than the actual writing, but for me, I turn from a pantser (which I am during drafting) into a plotter.
- At first the hardest part of this was that my days felt unproductive since most of it was sitting around thinking and making plans. But once I realized how much faster I was writing and getting through these revisions, I stopped caring about how many actual words I was getting on paper each day.
- When I finally am ready to tackle my revision, I start with the outline but if the writing takes me elsewhere, I keep an open mind and go where it takes me. Often my best ideas come this way, when I’m completely immersed in the world and am typing away. This is the best part of writing to me—being so in tune with the characters and words that they take you away and tell you where they want to go.
As for how I tackled my three complete rewrites, I basically did the above but with a lot more planning, a little more head-on-the-desk time (one of my secret moves), and breaking the book down into manageable sections.
And if you’re stuck and have an agent, call him/her! Or send an email. Sometimes just putting down my struggles in an email to Kathleen helped me figure some things out. And when that didn’t do the trick, we talked on the phone and we always came up with a solution together by the end of the call.
If you have any revision tricks, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Coming up the next five weeks:
- Oct 3—Before The Call
- Oct 10—The Call (including what questions I asked)
- Oct 17—After The Call: Client References
- Oct 24—Multiple Offers
- Oct 31—Submission Demystified
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