Monday, February 22, 2010

Revising That Ugly First Draft

I'm a little crazy, I guess, because I enjoy the revision phase of novel writing even more than I like the creative phase. Here's how I go about it.

Step One: Sort all the critique pages from my critique group. I have feedback for the first thirteen chapters so far. I put them in page order within chapters, discarding the pages that have no comments on them.

Step One is done. The pages now sit to the left of my desktop computer keyboard.

Step Two: Work my way through the first thirteen chapters, making changes and corrections based on the critique comments that I think will improve the novel while retaining my voice and style. I will begin on Wednesday.

Step Three: Read through the rest of the novel, carrying forward any changes that impact the story. During this process, I make notes when I see problems with the story arc, backstory, characters, or descriptions.

Step Four: Using the notes from Step Three: Fix the problems.

Step Five: Print out the novel and read it again. Make notes and corrections on the pages. Add needed scenes (handwritten) and mark where the insertions go.

Step Six: Enter all of the changes into the manuscript file on the computer.

Step Seven: Read the manuscript aloud from the monitor, making additional changes and corrections as I go.

Step Eight: Do all of the Self-Editing steps I have as part of my routine. There are ten of them, including word searches for the words I tend to repeat (really, pretty, and back among others), excessive use of adverbs (-ly), and passive verbs (was, were). I posted my self-editing series at The Blood-Red Pencil blog and will summarize the process here when I get to this step.

Step Nine: Print the novel again and read it aloud from the hard copy. I'm always amazed at how many small errors and typos I find during this process.

Step Ten: Stop fiddling with the manuscript and get on with queries and submissions (and agent or editor pitches at conferences). My goal is to complete Step Ten by March 25th. I need a completed manuscript in order to keep my agent pitch appointment at the Northern Colorado Writers Conference at the end of March.

I'll have my nose to the grindstone over the next thirty days, so don't be alarmed if I disappear from time to time. I'll still try to post every day, even if it's only to whine about the mistakes I find in this ugly first draft.


Elspeth Antonelli said...

I far prefer editing over writing. A full page of mistakes is easier to deal with than a blank page. Best of luck - I'm sure you're in for some very pleasant surprises.

Jan Morrison said...

I love to read how others do it! And I like the editing process too but only when I'm in it. I happily like whatever stage I'm at and forget that I like the other ones.

Ann Elle Altman said...

That's a good process. I don't think I've ever wrote down my editing process before.


Patricia Stoltey said...

I hope I get pleasant surprises, Elspeth. I always fear those moments when I say, "What the devil was I thinking? THAT WON'T WORK!"

Jan -- It's definitely best to enjoy each moment (but I have to admit to enjoying some moments more than others).

Ann -- It helped me a lot to put order into the process -- I wasn't nearly that organized with the two mystery manuscripts. A great editor showed me the error of my ways. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

I prefer the writing to the editing, but I don't hate the editing/revising. Well, not until the 30th time or so :)

Carol Kilgore said...

I'm in this editing thing, too. I like it on the same level as creating. I must be a snail. There's no way I can be finished by the end of March. I'm inspired.

coffeelvnmom said...

"Stop fiddling with the manuscript..." I LOVE that line! We could fiddle with it forever if we're not careful! ;)

Karen Walker said...

I can't wait to be in the editing phase...feels like that will never happen again. But I'm renewing my commitment to writing, so I know I'll be there some day. Good luck, Patricia. Your process sounds fabulous.

Ann said...

That is an intense program. I would love to be at that stage in my writing. I am in awe. Good luck for the weeks ahead.

Cricket McRae said...

What a great breakdown of the process, Patricia! It's easier for me to get into the "flow" when editing, so perhaps I do like it better. For the last reading of the hard copy, I like to print the manuscript single spaced in two columns in landscape view. It's more like reading a "book" and for some reason I always catch completely different things on that pass.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I like working on the revisions better than the creative phase, too, but only for the first couple of times through. After that it becomes a chore. I haven't got the hang of knowing when to quit fiddling yet!

The Old Silly said...

I've never written down a process like that. You are very analytical. But stop with the "ugly" business - I'll bet you're WAY too self-critical. (wink)

Marvin D Wilson