Light at the End of the Tunnel: My Method of Revision (pt1)

I am not someone who usually like rewrites. To me, they always take SO much longer than writing the first draft did, and I’m left wondering if I even made it any better … which then leads to yet another new draft as I try to fix mistakes still left over from draft 1, and the ones from the new draft, and … well, you get the picture.

So it is rather an unusual experience for me to suddenly feel like rewrites are going well. Earlier this week, I looked up from the keyboard and suddenly realized I could see the whole WIP laid out before me how it was supposed to be, full knowledge of how I needed and would fix it, and how it would look in the end. It was beautiful and shocking as all heck, especially for this manuscript which has stubbornly did it’s own thing from the start. I thought I’d share what I did because a) maybe it will help you too, and b) maybe then I’ll remember the method when I come to my next rewrite and actually have things go well again (twice in a row … maybe not, but I’m a optimist today).

This week I’ll discuss the first 5 steps of my 10 step method (convenient it worked out that way, hmm?). Then, since it will take you most of the week to get those done, I’ll offer the final 5 next week.

So, my method:

  1. Leave the manuscript alone as long as you can after completing the first (or whatever number you’re on) draft. This will make it more possible to look at it with fresher eyes – instead of the intense / driven / slightly mad eyes you used to complete it.
  2. Read the manuscript through the first time and DO NOT make any changes or detailed notes. Instead, record impressions (ie: this chapter worked, something was weak here, confused here, bored, etc). Your impressions this time through will hopefully be closer to what your readers may find – and which shows you some of the weaknesses you can miss when you’re too immediately familiar with the work (ie: you finished writing it yesterday).
  3. Create a chapter by chapter (or scene by scene if that’s how you write) summary with the purpose, characters, and enough information for you to quickly identify what scene / chapter you’re referring to. Try to keep it brief and quick – if you can’t remember what happened in a chapter whatsoever, this may mean the chapter is, frankly, unmemorable.
  4. Analyze your breakdown as it stands. I personally like paper in my hand, and print off a copy to do this. If you can do it on-screen, power to you. Whatever the case, as you read your summaries, does it make sense? Even to you, does it feel like something is missing? Are there sections that lag? Are some chapters / scenes in the wrong place? Where do they belong? Make notes to situate them properly.
  5. Identify your major plot points and turning points. Do you hit these in appropriate places in the manuscript? Are they obvious? Are you missing any? Do previous scenes / chapters build towards these points? It may help to identify each major step in every plot and see that you move through all of them, that they intertwine neatly, and that it’s a logical progression. Likewise, consider: could you more tightly intertwine some of these plot points, especially if they align with major turning points?

Next week I’ll explain my next five steps. Or better yet, why not share some of yours? Comment below.

Best of luck and hope those revisions go well.  Thanks for reading, and have a great week. Happy writing!