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. 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?


Colene Murphy said...

great look at how you are doing it! Good luck on all your revisions!

lotusgirl said...

I like this process. It is exactly the sort of thing I need to do. I'm in the middle of things right now, but I like breaking down like you have. Thanks for sharing.

christine M said...

It sounds like you are very organized! That's good! Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I love reading about your writing and revision/rewriting process, because you're so organized and it's so enlightening to me to read about it. Thank you for sharing, and good luck with your revisions!

Unknown said...

First of all, I absolutely love the header of this.

Second, your explanation of how you turned your first draft into a much better rendition was fascinating, and so sensible. I'm keeping it for future reference.

Good luck with it.
Dorothy (Google's got my nickname here)

Vonna said...

This looks great, Beth. I am an early to bed early to rise person so I'll have to read it again in the morning. Thanks for sharing your process.

Kayla Olson said...

This is fantastic! Thanks for sharing, Beth! I also enjoyed reading the posts you linked to up at the top (although the last link took me to the blogger log-in page, for some reason…). Good luck with NaNoRevMo!!

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

That's for sharing your method. It's definitely food for thought.

My previous revisions style varied depending on my intentions. When I wanted to rewrite the end of a work, I made notes of the things I wanted to keep from the old draft, then made a list of the stuff that needed to be added, in order, and then I made rewrote, using those as guides. When I'm just doing line edits, It's much simpler. All notes on MS paper. Blue for minor, green for things requiring thinking and writing. Works for me.

Good luck with your rewrites.

Anonymous said...

You know, I'd never considered the difference between rewriting and revising before. Thanks for that!

Good luck with your rewrites - sounds like you've got an organised but flexible approach.

Anonymous said...

IMO, your plan sounds very complicated and time consuming. Good luck!

My own revision plan was modeled on your previous revision plan b/c I loved how organised you were.

Lindsay said...

I love how organized your revision/rewrite plan is.
I sort of break my feedback down and then see how many CP's pick up on the same thing and change according. But, like you said, it's all about the story. I try to tweak their suggestions to reflect my intention for the chapters. :)

Good luc with the rewrite. Oh, and a widescreen sounds awesome. I want one. lol.

Bish Denham said...

I'm just really learning how and your how-to notes may be of help to me. Thanks!

Good luck and have fun.

Anonymous said...

I loved the way you detailed this out and what you said about applying reader critiques is brilliant!

Jessica Subject said...

I do use the feedback from my critique group for rewriting, and sometimes revisions depending on their comments.

Best of luck with your own rewriting/revisions.

Sage Ravenwood said...

You pretty much outlined my system here. I don't outline at all, which means things tend to change up mid/end WIP that don't match my beginning chapters perfectly. The only difference is I print out a hard copy of my first draft, besides the saved doc. in my computer. The hard copy has all my notes in red (at times filling every available blank border space on the page). (Hugs)Indigo

Abby Minard said...

I love that you broke it down for us. It gives me good inspiration for my own revisions when I'm ready to do them.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

This is awesome! I'm deep in revisions right now, but I'm having to rewrite a few sections. I followed a lot of what you're saying here, especially the part of breaking it down, chapter by chapter and writing a single line to describe it. It really helps to see the backbone of the story that way. (Linda Sue Park suggested this in a seminar I attended and she was dead right about it!)

Good luck with the rewriting!! :)

Karen Lange said...

Lots of good ideas here, thanks! Cheering you on! :)

Pam Zollman said...

As soon as I finish my wip, I plan to try out your revision process. Thanks for sharing! Hope your revisions and rewriting go well.

Pam Zollman

Kristin said...

Thanks, Beth. I'm rewriting too! (And seriously thinking about moving the docs to my husband's huge monitor now. heh.)

Sherrie Petersen said...

Excellent revision notes! I love getting a peek inside how your brain works :)