Friday, March 29, 2019

Novel Writing: Revision Strategy

A newsletter distributed by THE WRITER offers ten revision strategies. I couldn’t help comparing their procedure to root canal. Frankly, I prefer a less painful and simpler approach. I’ve decided to share mine with you as I’ve been doing revisions on my 5th Kim Reynolds mystery novel, THE BLOOD FAMILY.


Stage one: I begin a novel by percolating it in my brain for sometime. It might be months or even years before I’m ready to create a rough outline and do a character bible. Usually a character bible comes before the outline. So that is stage two.

Stage three consists of writing an outline followed by the first draft. I try to write it through without much in the way of correction. I’m also flexible with my initial outline. I then put the draft away for a time and work on other projects.

Stage four: I return to my first draft and read it through. If it no longer appears the brilliant writing I initially thought it to be, I might drop the work. However, if in fact the manuscript seems solid, I begin revising. I am now wearing my editor’s hat.

Stage five: How many revisions will the work need? That depends. Some novels need a great many. Others go smoothly with just a few. However, self-editing is a demanding process.

I used to hand write all of my work in the initial first draft. But with the last few books, I’ve been writing them on my computer. I now prefer this method. It’s not only faster but I can study the writing more critically and accurately early on.

If you’re going to be a professional writer, you must be honest about your work. There are more people writing than ever before and fewer people reading print. Opportunities have diminished. So you need to really want to write and be willing to put in the effort to be competitive.

Revision is a necessary component of the writing process. We writers are fallible. We are human and therefore make errors. No matter how often I go over my own work, I always find ways I can improve upon it. I accept the fact that I make mistakes and do my best to correct them before I send my work out to editors—who will always demand further revision before a manuscript becomes a book.

My advice for successful self-editing and revision—pretend you are a professional editor. It’s painful to rewrite and remove sections of your work, but you have to be honest about it. Are there parts that are repetitious and redundant? Put them on the chopping block. Good writing is all about re-writing. We want our writing to be crisp and precise. We need to cut out the clichés and strive for originality.

Your comments welcome.


27 comments:

  1. Funny thing. I've never read a first draft to my critique group. Always polish it first. With my new work in progress, I've been reading the draft. The group likes this one better. Apparently, sometimes, I edit some of the "real" out of the work, polish it too much, or something. Strange.

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    1. Sharon,

      That was my mother's theory--that you can overwrite in a desire for perfection. Sometimes rough edges work just fine and you can over-polish and revise out the essence of a work. So thanks for making this point. It's a great addition to the blog.

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  2. I have experienced under editing and over editing. Still looking for the perfect balance. Great food for thought. I’m a pantser do outlining is not an option, but the book I’m writing now has been mulled over for many months, since I didn’t have time to start it. It’s made my pantsing odd. I found myself writing out of sequence. Totally new for me. I guess I plantsed this one... a tad of plotting before pantsing. There all kinds of ways to write and edit. I’m experimenting with it all. Great post! ~Minette Lauren

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    1. Hi Minette,

      I'm not a pantser, but I know it works for many writers. Like you, I like to mull things over for many months before I actually start to write. Then I have the true focus.

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  3. Jacqueline,
    We all have our different strategies to finish an MS before we send it out to beta-readers, acquisition editors, and so forth. Mine is a bit different than yours. I'm a pantser, so I content edit as I go. My first draft is my last, except for copy editing. For the latter, I know my bad habits, so I search for where they appear, and do something about them. After beta-readers, the MS is 99% "clean," but one must always remember, there are a few edits still to be made. More independent eyes are needed.
    Our strategies must match our personalities. And whatever strategy works, that's the one to use.
    r/Steve

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  4. Hi Steve,

    Your method is different but I'm certain just as effective. I don't use beta-readers. The first person outside of myself to read my work is always an editor. Sometimes I'm pleased with how they respond, other times, not so much.

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  5. Great info Jacqueline!
    Thanks for sharing
    Good luck and God's blessing
    PamT

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  6. Thank you, Pam. I hope the info proves useful.

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  7. The hardest part is learning to take criticism and use it constructively. When a reader (one or more) says that the plot sags in the middle, that's the time to listen. Good overview of editing, Jacquie.

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    1. Susan,

      Sagging middles are a common problem with novels. We tend to worry more about clever beginnings and good endings.

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  8. Thanks for the great post Jacqueline. I find I over-edit as I go along. Polish, polish, polish each chapter/passage. This makes me very slow. It does make the first draft feel closer to a later draft in terms of inline prose, but when you have to junk something that doesn't work, you realize you shouldn't have wasted so much time on it. But, alas, I can't help myself. I wish I had the strength of will to just get out a draft quickly and then revise. I'd be a much more productive writer.

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    1. Since I'm familiar with your work, I know what a consummate writer you are. Obviously, what you're doing works well.

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  9. It's definitely painful to cut things, Jacqueline. But it's a task we have to learn to do. And we can always use them in something else :)

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    1. Paul,

      Good idea about using material cut from one work in another.

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  10. Jacquie,
    Like you, I hand-wrote the first draft of my first book, then typed it into Word where I revised, revised, revised. That process led me to realize that I could "create" on my computer and I've been doing that ever since. So much more efficient!

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  11. My writing process is similar to yours, Jacquie, although I find reading aloud my drafts to my critique group or willing family members really helps me clarify voice, character, pace, etc. Thanks for another helpful post!

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    1. I don't read out loud but it is recommended. Particularly useful for checking on dialog.

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  12. Great stuff, as always, Jacqueline. I confess. I edit a lot as I go. I go back and read and edit what I did the day before, then move forward. I find it immerses me in the story. Regardless of how we do it, it's still true what they say: It's 10% writing and 90% rewriting.

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    1. I do that if I've let the work go for a few days. It's another good way to keep on top of the accuracy.

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  13. I'd love to hear more about your character Bible and what building tool(s) you use. I started out handwriting everything, but have mostly switched to the computer with one exception. I keep an index card for each character and make notes. My character Bible is mostly comprised of these. Enjoyed the post, Jacqueline.

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    1. Hi Zoe,

      Index cards are a great way to keep track of your characters. Helpful idea.

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  14. Great article. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Janice,

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Always welcome.

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  15. Thank you, Terrie. Glad you could stop by.

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