Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Breaking It Down: Organizing the Revision Process

     The 187-page manuscript is at my right elbow as I type, figuratively poking me.
      I'm here, it's whispering. Time to get cracking.
     It needs a revision. A medium- to medium-large revision, depending on if I look at it in a glass-half-full or half-empty sort of way. I sliced some sections away already. I have in mind what needs rewriting (or so say the notes scribbled illegibly in the margins of my hard copy).  I know what the new chapters I need to write will be about.
     Sort of.  *shutters*
     It's a scary process. Tearing down, rebuilding scenes and chapters, creating a whole new book sometimes. I look forward to working with characters that are pretty cool kids and getting back into a story I love. Can I make this story better by breaking it apart, then reconstructing it? There's thousands of words, conveying ideas, themes, motivations that need to be rearranged in another, more coherent manner. How can I keep this information organized enough that I can put the puzzle back together?
Ummm...this is supposed to help me revise how exactly?
     I went to a non-fiction writing workshop this weekend. The presenter was author Candace Fleming. She uses an accordion file system to keep track of her chapters and their contents, sometimes 3-4 years worth of research. I read yesterday that Bruce Coville is learning how to use Scrivener. There seems to be as many systems for writing and rewriting as there are authors. The trouble isn't a lack of choices. The trouble, at least for me, is finding the right choice.
     The creating/revising process has always fascinated me. I love, love, love to hear how other writers tackle it. For me, it's still a learning process. It's comforting to know that someone as wildly-successful as Bruce Coville is still experimenting.

     What's your method? What system for revising have you used that didn't work out?
   
     

9 comments:

  1. You have a lot more gumption and courage than I do. Looking at the photo with all the colored notes, I was ready to give up! Good thing it wasn't my MIP.
    I take it one task at a time. No tear-down, just one problem scouting and solving at each step. That's what you do when you are chicken.

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  2. A system for revisions is a very good idea! I took a picture-book writing course (online/home study, called Just Write for Kids) which includes a revision checklist. That's a helpful tool whether I'm writing a picture book, middle grade novel, or adult novel. In fact, asking myself the questions asked in that course guides me through the process of working on any writing project now.

    I look at what isn't working, and brainstorm ways of changing it, try things out, a tweak here, a complete change there.

    I confess that when Bruce mentioned Scrivener, I didn't know what he was talking about. Perhaps I should check it out.

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  3. Good luck w/your revision. I'm in the same stage right now. I don't have a 'method' other than going back to the beginning and smoothing, tightening, pulling out . . . and slowly moving forward in the story all over again. It works for me, but everyone has to find his/her own process.

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  4. Hi Dawn,

    Good luck with finding your way through revisionland. I don't know that I have an official "process." I just keep going over and over and over things until I get them right(hopefully.)

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  5. @Mirka: That's not my photo thankfully! While I've used Post-Its before, mine was a little more organized than that! I'd rip my hair out if that was my system.
    @Beth: I've found a couple of good checklists in different classes/conferences I've been to. They are very helpful when I'm wrapping up a revision.
    @Sharon and Ruth: Thank you! What I'm learning about my preferred process is seeing the plot points and chapter summaries all at once (on poster board) so I can move chapters and sections around.

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  6. I start from the beginning and identify trouble spots. I fix them in order as they arise pretty much, but then jump to later scenes that also have to be fixed because of the earlier fix. Then back to that earlier scene and slowly forward again.

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  7. I revise for different things with each run through, but my favorite is printing the manuscript and breaking out the post it flags. I'm addicted to those things. I mark time and days to make sure I'm consistent.

    Dawn, I gave you an award on my blog today. Stop by.
    http://kellyhashway.blogspot.com/2012/01/liebster-blog-award.html

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  8. @ Marcia: If you're jumping ahead to fix later scenes, have you kept track of where certain details are so you know exactly where to look? I'm constantly paging through chapters looking for scenes and details. That might be related to not plotting beforehand!
    @ Kelly: I definitely need a hard copy to do revisions! Thanks so much for the award!

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  9. My WIP has several character subplots - I went through on a word document, outlining the events that take place with each of them in a different font color, so I could actually see if I had left a character for too long. It looks really pretty when they all converge together! New follower :)

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