September 29, 2021 at 10:39 am #142433
So, this topic is for discussing revision and editing methods, and it mostly started with a conversation between me and @noah-cochran but I’m moving it here so it doesn’t clutter other topics.
This is what I’ve learned about the first, big revision. Credentials, I’m revising my first book and will have to start revising my second soon. 🙂
Step one, draft the book. (I’m assuming this doesn’t need any more explanation XD) Most people like to finish their first draft completely, though some get ahead better if they jump around and leave a few gaps to fill in later. I’m one of the former, so I like to have a complete, albeit messy, first draft.
First of all, getting that far is an incredible accomplishment. Starting a draft is easy, finishing one is way harder 🙂
After finishing, I like to take a break. I’m currently working on multiple projects at once so that just means I work on the other one for a while, *cough* until I get discouraged/stuck *cough* but completely taking a break from writing can be helpful too. However, if you’re very eager, you could possibly skip this and get straight into reading it for the first time.
Personally, it takes me between six to nine months between writing the first chapter and writing the last one, so I have only a vague memory of the first chapters. Because of that, I like to go back and reread the whole book at once to get an idea of what I need to fix.
I like to print the manuscript. First of all, it’s easier on the eyes when you’re going to be reading for a long time, but it also keeps you from ‘just quickly’ fixing something. With pen and paper, it means you just mark it and move on. Besides that, I cannot adequately describe the immense pride and satisfaction you get from holding several inches of paper and knowing that those are your words, your book, and you wrote it. It’s the best XD
Next, I just read the entire book and annotate it. (Just, haha.) This takes several weeks, mostly because you’re thinking and annotating while you read. Take whatever notes you like, but don’t get too stuck in the minutiae of grammar and prose. (Though mark it if you want, but you’re probably not going to need it soon.)
I like to mark when I establish things or give information, so I can reference them later and check that I’m not repeating information too much.
I mark foreshadowing, character motivation, where scenes break, etc. You can really do anything and mark as much or as little as you like. However, I do recommend just writing down your thoughts, like “Boring scene.” or “Laughed at this line” (On that note, make an effort to mark everything you enjoy. It’s just as important as everything you don’t like and it’s pretty encouraging.)
After you read through the entire thing, I like to make a big picture overview, where I write down things I’m proud of, things I don’t like, and neutral things. This is mostly big stuff like “I like this character’s arc, but I’m not happy with the battle scenes.”
You don’t need solutions yet, just write down everything you’d like to change. (You’ll probably keep adding to and changing this list as you think it over)
And now comes the time you lock your manuscript in a cabinet and refuse to look at it for several weeks or several months. Unlike the previous break, this isn’t optional. I highly recommend not skipping this. It gives you time to get perspective on your story. (As you know, you can get too close to your book and then you struggle to see what is good, bad, or indifferent.)
Besides that, you’ll probably have encountered several plot holes and problems you don’t have solutions for. I’ve found that if I absently think about it for a few weeks to a few months, I can get pretty fantastic solutions. (And if you don’t, you can brainstorm)
You’ve probably heard the “kill your darlings” advice, and I’ve found that the longer I’m away from a project, the easier it is to be comfortable with the idea of moving or cutting big chunks.
And speaking of cutting chunks, take a very critical look at your beginning. Beginnings are one of my personal weak points, and my first draft beginnings are generally pretty bad. I like to see how close to the inciting incident I can cut it. You need to think very carefully about everything you decide to put before the catalyst. In the beginning, you don’t have space for anything that isn’t strictly necessary. After that, you have more leeway.
During the break, you can write some short stories, work on another project, write down those plot bunnies that have been nagging you, or just take a complete break and do something else. It really does help.
After that, I spent time writing down what happened in my first draft, chapter by chapter. Essentially a reverse outline. If you outlined it properly at the beginning, update it so it’s accurate. (Because characters always run away and change the outline.) Then, re-outline so you fix the problems you found.
Now, after this, I decided to completely rewrite from scratch. (My first draft was nothing like what I wanted my second one to be, and it was just easier.) I don’t think that’s absolutely a requirement, though I do think that rewriting is often easier than editing.
So, I can’t give any further advice when it comes to editing instead of starting over with the previous knowledge you gathered during the first draft XD
So, everyone, do you have any tips for revision, or for the third draft and onward? What techniques do you like to use? What’s your process? Do you prefer revision or drafting? I’ve personally found I quite enjoy revision since I can see the project getting more polished and closer to my vision.
Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?September 29, 2021 at 5:51 pm #142442Noah Cochran@noah-cochran
Thanks for all the tips, I loved reading about your experiences, Rose. 🙂
With the printing the manuscript point, isn’t it kind’ve a pain to have to mark it down on paper, and then go into the document to actually edit it? I definitely get the not wanting to read on the computer thought, it hurts the eyes. xDSeptember 30, 2021 at 3:49 pm #142471
Thanks for all the tips, I loved reading about your experiences, Rose.
Glad I could help! 🙂 I wish someone had told me all this stuff when I plunged into revisions with more enthusiasm than skill XD
With the printing the manuscript point, isn’t it kind’ve a pain to have to mark it down on paper, and then go into the document to actually edit it? I definitely get the not wanting to read on the computer thought, it hurts the eyes. xD
Well, I see your point, but you aren’t actually writing down what you want to fix and how to fix it. At this stage, the first big revision, you don’t need to proofread, you don’t need to evaluate prose.
You aren’t writing edits, just notes. I’m going to drag my horrific first draft from the depths of the cabinet to explain what I mean. (Man, the few sentences I glimpsed were even more terrible than I remembered. XD)
Often I didn’t even explain what I wanted to change, just underlined a passage that sounded wrong. I wrote down whenever I cringed (Often. Too often XD) and what parts made me laugh. I noted down when I was missing a description or when a conversation trailed off.
In short, you aren’t editing, you’re annotating and reading attentively. You’re just trying to read this as a reader and trying to find problems, not solutions. You can find the solutions later. Don’t think about it too much, just circle anything that feels wrong and move on.
Also, don’t do as I did, and don’t get too stuck in prose and grammar. It honestly doesn’t matter at all. All that time I spent on it was wasted.
And it’s quite nice that you can just take your work with you and sit wherever instead of being nailed to your desk. (I actually really enjoyed the rereading part of my book, even though most of it wasn’t great XD)
Also, you can observe the gradual deterioration of your handwriting as you get through the book XD
My first chapters: Color-coded pens, careful notes in the margins, straight underlining, explanations of the notes, neat, legible handwriting.
Last chapters: Entire pages sloppily crossed out, “Boring” scrawled over several paragraphs, handwriting so awful I can’t decipher what I was actually trying to say, cryptic notes that were mostly just me trying to amuse myself, I’m using one pen because I lost the others.
Do as I say, not do as I do XD
Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?October 13, 2021 at 3:39 pm #142734
Hey Noah, I just came across a video that explains a part of my first draft revision process really well. As I was watching this it was like “Yes! That’s it! That’s what I’m doing!” which was quite amusing XD
Here’s the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fzDRB6DRkc
Basically, after the reading process, I re-outlined my book and picked out which scenes I wanted to recast (Turned out to be the majority, though I do have several that have remained pretty much the same) And that’s what I’m writing now!
Anyway, hoped this explanation helped some, she explains it much better than I can 🙂
Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?October 14, 2021 at 1:53 pm #142758Noah Cochran@noah-cochran
Thanks for the tip Rose! That was a great video. I had been planning something similar to this, and I already have a mental list in my head that I want to recast, so I think were on similar tracks. Do you recast the scenes you have chosen to recast first? Or do you go through the book chapter by chapter and recast the scenes you planned to as they come up. Just curious. 🙂October 15, 2021 at 11:47 am #142820
Glad it helped! I really like her videos, she explains well and covers some more obscure topics 🙂
Do you recast the scenes you have chosen to recast first? Or do you go through the book chapter by chapter and recast the scenes you planned to as they come up. Just curious.
Mmh, good question. Personally, I’ve always marked the scenes I want to recast while reading the manuscript (possibly adding what’s wrong with it), and then afterward I went through chapter by chapter chronologically. (But I’ve heard a lot of people like to do it the other way so… just try both and pick which works best!)
However, I do recast by rewriting the entire book XD (Advice you’re not going to like coming up XD)
I’ve done this for my first book because there wasn’t much to salvage, but I’m going to repeat it for my second. I’d strongly advise to at least try rewriting instead. Not necessarily the entire book, but try a few chapters, to see if it helps you. It does improve your writing.
I’ve found rewriting works better for me personally because I often end up changing things that I wouldn’t change while editing. It’s like your brain decides that since you’re going to write it all anyway, you may as well change this or that, and it turns out better for it.
It just elevates your writing from the “good enough” that’s the first draft 🙂
Because you already know exactly how the overall scene should run, you end up improving and tweaking ‘less important’ things and coming up with new ideas. I’ve changed entire settings and side characters because of this, besides working out sub-plots a lot, which is much easier while rewriting.
You might get better continuity too because you don’t have to change every little thing that came before it to fit with the new scene.
You can pull up your first draft next to your second and literally copy some sentences and parts word for word, or you can just read a chapter of the first draft before rewriting it. (Which is what I do because I essentially have every scene memorized XD)
It’s honestly less work than I thought, and far easier than drafting since you don’t have to work out any plot holes and decide on stuff.
Besides, I find it an extremely satisfying process. You don’t have the stress of deciding what to keep and what to cut because you already decided it beforehand, and you don’t have the uncertainty and unfinishedness of a first draft. It’s very fun to see it get closer to your vision and be so much better than the first draft.
Anyway, just something I like to do. I’m not saying it’s the only right way, but consider trying it for a few chapters and see what you think 🙂
Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?
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