Hi all. I love the writing process, but get stymied when it comes to revision. I've completed two drafts of my novel, but I don't know how "rigorous" my second revision was. Sure, I cut scenes, added scenes, fleshed out characters, and more, but I still feel like I have "miles to go before I sleep." Does anyone out there have revision tips? Do most of you start from scratch (i.e. open a new document and start over--may be too difficult for novels) or do you do a lot of cutting, pasting, and reworking of scenes?
Yes to all of the above.
Katie, it comes down to personal preference and trial-and-error. Which is utterly not-helpful, I know, but ... that's how it goes. Just remember: writing is a craft and at times a painful one.
...and at times a painful one.
You said it sister! :)
Katie, What is the best way to revise is the question I probably get asked more times than any other. There's no simple answer or technique, as every manuscript has its own, unique, issues. However, I did write a blog post that addresses how to approach the revision process, called 5 Step to Become Your Own Best Editor. Hopefully, this will help get the ball rolling for you:
Hi Diane, I loved your blog. It was fantastic advice. I'm currently trying out the method where I read the entire manuscript and write my notes on a SEPARATE pad of paper. It's amazing! I don't feel obligated to mark up the text itself, which saves bundles of time! Plus I really am seeing the big picture. I love it. It's a relief that I found something that works for me. Thank you so much.
Katie, I'm so glad you found the blog post helpful. You'll find you get much deeper results by revising this way. Keep me posted on your progress.
I just plow on through and find words pops in my head that are better than what I'd written. And when I am working this intensely on something, better phrases, new paragraphs, adding a bit to the character come along very unexpectedly and this is for the best too. When I feel I've done all I can, I send it to a critique partner. Their perspective is invaluable. Good luck.
Wow! Thanks everyone! What a great response! This was very helpful. @ Laura, yes, I agree that everyone has a ritual and method of his/her own. When I teach my students study skills, I often tell them to find the method that works for them...looks like I should be taking my own advice.
But great tips. Reading aloud, printing the manuscript (I absolutely HAVE to do that), and the point on time--I've been letting my novel's manuscript "sit" for almost a month now. I'm anxious to get back to it, but understand that it needs some dormancy. Thanks for the book titles and blog links. This is such a great site!
Ugh! Katie, this is exactly my problem, too! I just responded to your post in Your First Novel group.
I can't for the life of me figure out how to redraft! I've always written smaller works for little people. This is my first complete first draft of a YA novel. Just over 116,000-words.
Looking for tips on "how-to" redraft. Start over with new document, go in and revise in original...I'm pulling my hair out over this.
Any advice would be great! I'm off to read the responses here. Thanks!!!
Candy, in looking at the number of words of your YA novel -- 116,000 -- I would say the first step you need to do in the revision process is look to see where you can cut the manuscript down to a more salable size. In general, YA novels usually run about 60k words. Certainly, you want to avoid going over 90k. To find out how to cut, go through the manuscript and ask yourself: are there characters that can be eliminated or combined? Do I have too many scenes that accomplish essentially the same thing? Do my scenes go on longer than they need to? Can I condense my dialogue exchanges?
It's natural for first drafts to be overly long. Now, you need to start the pruning process to give your story the best shape.
Oh, I totally agree with you, Diane! Sorry, I should've said that. It's way too long. It took me two years to write, so parts drudge on and on. I've already decided to cut the prologue (yuck & boring), and I've cut a bunch of back story already, getting to the action earlier in the story.
I never thought about characters being possibly eliminated or combined. Great idea to think about!
I thank you kindly for your suggestions!! btw, I also enjoyed reading your post "The Ugly First Draft."
Hi Candy! It looks like we're on the same page. I have so many issues with revision, but this discussion has shown me that I'm not alone. How long are YA novels normally? What's yours about? Do you have a blog I can visit? I recently started the method Diane O'Connell talked about on her blog...read the manuscript, takes notes on a separate pad of paper. It's been doing wonders for me. I've been revamping a short story using this method and it's working amazingly. Maybe practice revision on a shorter piece? I'm using my shorter works to get used to the idea of doing significant revision, and hopefully the skills will transfer over to my novel (108,000 words, so I know the feeling!)
Katie, YA novels are typically about 60,000 - 65,000 words. Of course, there are those longer ones, but it's a lot harder to get published with a longer manuscript. If you read the YA classics by Judy Blume, SE Hinton, Robert Cormier, etc. you'll see that they're all on the shorter side.