Sunday, October 24, 2010

New Revision Rewriting Process

Last year, I tried a new way of revising. You can read about it here (the plan), here (what worked), here (what didn't work), and here (the end result).

The thing about that plan was that I was working on my own schedule then. Essentially, I set aside three months, and had three groups of beta readers. I had alpha readers to check pace, revised it, sent it to beta readers for a month to check plot and characters, revised again, and then sent it to gamma readers for the final spit shine.

The end result? Three rounds of revisions and three rounds of readers who could tell me how well I progressed at each revisions = a pretty polished manuscript.

The problem? This time around, I don't have three months to revise. AND I have a much rougher manuscript on my hands.

I admit it--soon after finishing Draft 1, I started panicking. A LOT. I had a mess of a manuscript--and I knew it was a mess--and I had a very tight deadline.

Fortunately, I also had a cadre of trusted readers.

So, I threw it at them in a frazzled, semi-incoherent email, begging for help. I did not have the organized stages of reads and focused topic points and well-organized plan of last year.

And they took my huge mess, and made lovely nice notes explaining what a huge mess it was.

Which is why I love them.

So, because my crit partners friends are so awesome, I ended up with a huge mess of a manuscript and piles of notes on what's wrong and how to fix it. And...it was rather intimidating, actually.

So: new plan.

The Revised Revision Rewriting Plan
For use when you got a great big fat mess on your hands.
  • Gather together all the notes from critiquers
    • First, I read through everything and got a basic impression of what the general idea was
    • Then, I started translating their notes into my own words
      • This is hugely important--sometimes, critiquers will say "Why don't you do X?" Well, maybe you don't want to do X--but you've got to figure out why they suggested X (maybe the character seemed weak, or the motivation wasn't clear, or whatever). Then, put the idea that you have in your own words.
        • Also--no matter how good your critiquers are, not all notes work
          • Point 1: I had one critiquer who really didn't like my first chapter. I had another who sincerely loved it. They can't both be right--I had to look at why each felt the way she did, and which interpretation more closely matched my intent. In the end, I decided to keep Chapter 1, but fix the issue that made the critiquer not like it.
          • Point 2: Sometimes critiquer's suggestions run contrarily to your intent. When a critiquer suggests something that causes a gut reaction of "No!" in you, that does not mean the critiquer is wrong--that means you've somehow failed to get across what you were actually going for. So you don't have to change it in the way they suggest, but you do need to understand where the suggestion was coming from a fix it from there.
          • Point 3: Sometimes critiquers who are writers are thinking with their writing head, not their reader heads. I do this all the time, personally--I basically start to try to rewrite a scene  the way I want it to be, whether or not it fits in the story.
    • Finally, I took all the big picture things, and compiled it into a notebook of what I basically had to do to fix up the manuscript. 
      • For me: this is 9 pages long, with notes as varied as "Amy and Elder should fight over X in the scene where Y happens." to single lines of narrative that I want to shape a chapter around.
  • When you have the general idea of what needs to change, apply the changes to specific chapters
    • Once I had my 9 pages of generalized notes, it was time to funnel the generalizations into specific scenes.
    • First, I took a sheet of note paper, and divided it into two columns. I labeled the first column "What Happens" and the second column "What Needs to Change." 
      • In the first column, I listed each chapter and a one sentence description of what happens in the chapter.
      • In the second column, I referred back to my general notes, coming up with specific scenes and changes that would answer the problems of the general notes.
    • Then, I used a different colored pen to draws changes and new scenes to the chapters that they coorespond to.
    • For example, in one chapter, Elder talks to some Feeders about a problem. There's not really anything wrong with this chapter. But one of the big changes I'm making is the type of mystery the character solve and I wanted to make sure there were traces of that mystery early on in the novel. So, I added a clue of the mystery and a new scene were Elder finds the clue before the chapter where he talks with the Feeders.
    • For me, I got between 40-50 pages of manuscript condensed to one legal-sized piece of paper in notes with mark-ups of how to change them.
  • From this point, you need to decide: revision or rewrite
    • For me, I had such significant changes that I decided I needed to rewrite instead of revise
    • The difference?
      • With revision, you use the same manuscript document and then add changes from there.
      • With a rewrite, you open up a new Word document and start writing all over again.
        • Personally, I have a wide-screen computer screen (awesome), so I have the old document open on the left side, and the new document open on the right side, because there's rather a lot I can cut and paste from old to new, interspersed with new writing. 
How about you? How do you revise?
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