Monday, October 20, 2008

On the Revision Process

Much is made of the writing process. But for me, at least, I'm starting to focus more on the revision process.

Segue! At my recent SCBWI-C conference, Alyssa Henkin did a manuscript critique for me (and my $50 payment...). She mentioned then, at at other speeches/workshops she did, the value of outlining before writing. She felt that it was necessary for a good manuscript to be outlined before writing. Which is all well and good to say, but I just don't work that way. Part of the joy of writing, for me, is to discover how the book ends, and an outline kills that.

But! I think an outline might work best in the revision process. See, I've realized that my first draft of a novel is, essentially, an outline. A 60k word fully fleshed out outline, but still, an outline. That was me getting the story on paper, and for me to get the story on paper, a sketch outline won't cut it--I need to have the whole she-bang. Now that I've got a 60k word "outline"/"rough draft", my revision process is really about filling in the plot holes and developing a much stronger second draft (or third, fourth, eight-hundredth). Looking at my rough draft in this way really helps me to refocus my revision process. I hate revising...but re-writing is another story...

WriterJenn has a post up about this and how she did an outline after she finished the book.
Outlined the book, and figured out where I was going to add scenes and where I was going to remove them. Where I had to move a scene, I used the outline to help me figure out the best way to do that. When it comes to first-draft writing, I'm a "plunger." Sometimes I use a very sketchy outline, but I drift from it as I write. However, I find outlines useful in the revision stage, when I have all the puzzle pieces and I'm deciding how to arrange them.
Although I'm looking at my first draft as an outline in and of itself, I'm also considering doing a true outline on the re-write. I've already re-arranged scenes and added different ones, enough so that I need some system to keep track of everything. When you're dealing with magic and mystery, you've got to have some sort of logical order!


Gottawrite Girl said...

I love this topic, as you know, Beth. That was my killer -- my endings didn't muster up enough tension. There wasn't a strong enough thesis... The outlining process is seeming to help this! Or, really, following a traditional "story arc," is more like it... Well, so glad you got another tidbit of feedback on your path... Talk soon, and thanks for sharing!!!

PJ Hoover said...

I can totally see that first draft = outline thing. And there is so a place for it. You have to do what feels right for the piece you're working on.

beth said...

Susan: glad you like the topic! It's one I foresee myself obsessing over in the very near future!

PJ: It was really the only thing that made sense in my head...glad it makes sense to you, too!