So I finished the first draft of my YA novel last May. I set it aside, giving myself 6 months of rest from it. Now, I'm ready to revise. I think. At this point it's about 283 pages and sitting just over 116,000-words. I know, a bit long. That includes a prologue I wrote over two years ago, which I'm considering tossing.
So I've opened up the ms, and just stared at the shitty first draft (Anne Lamont's term!). I literally sat there, blinking. Now what?
I've revised several picture books and one chapter book for children. Those were easy to revise. But how do you start the revision process for a novel that long? I know this question may seem completely stupid, but I'm not sure where or how to begin!
Do I print out a hard copy and revise with pen and paper?
Do I open up the document on 1/2 the computer screen and then start a new document on the other 1/2 of screen, and actually read while redrafting it?
Or do I go in and actually read & revise the actual document itself? Of course, saving an original.
If y'all don't mind me asking, how do you redraft? Thanks in advance!!!
Editing is a personal endeavour, but I try to run each edit with a certain goal or theme... edit out unnecessary words such as that, limit the 'is' verbs, etc, tighten up phrases better expressed with fewer words, check for dead end story arcs, consistency, metaphor, analogy, etc, and so on. Depending on your choice of narrator, you should make sure yours stays consistent, and with first person, does not overreach.
Printing out and so on is personal choice, what works for you, but in the end, the finished edit has to be on screen.
One thing I do is save the story by chapters/elements. I rename each for the second edit, for the third, etc... so there are preserved checkpoints of reference. Be tough, cold and calculated are on your side in editing. If you have favourite wording that doesn't quite fit, save it in a catch all document for future use.
There is a lot of leeway and personal preference, and once you start you will find your style. Don't be afraid to look around the net for info on writing dos and don'ts.
When I write, storyline comes first, writing not so much. Thereafter it must be tidied up into something competent. I'm on the third edit now, and the difference from the initial draft...light years apart.
Have fun... I love editing!
I tried working the dual screen angle, but would find myself revising the original I was supposed to leave untouched because I'd forget to switch back and forth. I have gotten better since I started using Autocrit, but I think that's because the second screen with Autocrit is smaller and has different colors on it, which separates it from my work. Now, I would probably do dual screen, but change the color of the print.
My computer is backed up to Time Machine, so it saves everything once a hour, so I never lose the prior draft. I also back up into the cloud, my iPad and Mac book. Just a little obsessive-compulsive.
I do think in some ways it's easier to use a print copy. Nothing easier than making those sweeping arrows to move something up or down in your story, and it allows you to see those idiot boo-boos that you didn't see the first 82 times you read your work. Print it in a different font, different size, so that it looks completely different from your on-screen novel.
Now, I do your last option, revising the actual document after saving a copy.
I save a new version, with a name like "_________, revision draft," and start reading on the computer. I make some changes immediately, but more often make bracketed notes in the text where I see the need for a change and don't have just the right idea yet. I try to go through fairly quickly, knowing I'll be revisiting the draft quite a few times.
Unlike your draft, my rough drafts tend to be too short. I often have notes left over from the rough-draft stage about scenes I need to add, and I think of more such scenes during this first re-read. After I've been through the draft once, I usually work on several such scenes. Then I figure out how to insert them and what has to be changed, either near the new scene or elsewhere (the new scene may introduce continuity errors).
If I'm not sure that I'm on the right track, I'll re-save before I make the changes, with some file name that will remind me of what the issue was, and then keep working on the first "revision draft."
Right now I'm experimenting with revising two rough drafts at once, to keep me from getting sick of either. We'll see if the aliens from the science fiction novel end up in the human-only afterlife where my other novel is set....
Y'all are walking sources of information! I kept telling myself, "You'll find your way through this. You can do it!" But, now that the time is here, I don't want my inexperience to get the best of me. It's like the first day of school jitters!
Nelle, it's refreshing to learn that you love editing. I don't hear that often, so it changes my perspective. Thanks!
Suanne, I actually like the using a different color font idea. I know there are several places in the ms already with a highlighted yellow. While first drafting, I would highlight an area where I maybe needed to do a bit of research or if the sentence / graph wasn't flowing right.
Karen, Yes, a 116,00-word draft gives me the eebie-jeebies about going back in. I already know off the top of my head particular areas that need to be reduced or cut. So much time has passed since I first started writing the novel. Where it was headed in the beginning changed considerably when I got to the middle and ending. There's also a lot of backstory that can and will be cut.
Thanks ladies! I'm starting today. So, I'll check back in with everyone as I push through it.
For me... I like to print it out, have a hard copy to deal with, it just makes it easier.
My MS has been edited a lot. I did two revisisons before I sent it to two different people to read. Try to find people who will look at it differently. My sister is a grammar puncuation guru, my cousin is the kind that asked you a ? about every single paragraph - why would she? are you going to explain? is he really?. I waited till I had both of their reviews and worked through them at the same time. My version on paper, my sister's on paper and my cousins on the screen - no reason to chop down another tree. It was really daunting but so so helpful. Now they have the revisions and a third friend with a fresh set of eyes has it too.
In regard as Nelle said, I use the words 'that' and 'so' a lot. One thing I learned from my first MS to my second. I wrote the first one and then did a search for the over used words - the numbers scared the crap out of me and I spent hours fixing it. Now when I finish writing the first draft of a chapter I do the searches, the numbers are of course smaller and I feel more confident fixing those sentences before I move on.
Whenever I have two screens up at the same time I make the mistake of writing on the wrong one, that's just me.
Try Autocrit. You can send in 400 or 500 words, run it through for free, see if you like it. On my current 22 chapter novel, I tried Autocrit, then paid for the service. I ran a chapter a night through it, often taking 2 or more runs to get the bugs worked out. It checks for repeated words, starting sentences with gerunds (-ing words) which, at least when when writing in past tense, combines a present with a past verb for a tense shift, etc. It compares your work to current published fiction for number of sentences starting with "the", name or pronouns starting sentences, repeated phrases, cliches. I now write, run through Autocrit, rewrite, run through again till OK, then I read for story line, plot faults, etc., and run through Autocrit one last time before sending to beta readers.
Michelle, thanks for your advice! You are kind to share your methods with me.
All of you are!!
Suanne, I looked up Autocrit last night. It seemed like a great tool for authors! Thanks!
Hey, Ladies! Thanks for all your advice! I did it, well doing it! I just passed a word count mile marker with my rewrites! I blogged about it this morning and I'm throwing myself a mini-revision party on my blog:
http://litreactor.com/columns/the-art-of-the-rewrite I found this article helpful. Check it out. Happy Editing :)
I'll check this link out, thanks!!
I've also just completed my first novel, a YA book as well. I prefer to print out and bind a complete fresh copy of the MS and edit on paper. When I read it on paper, suddenly it's a book - and it might as well be someone else's book! I put on my reader hat. If I don't like something I've read, I ask myself why? Was it hard to understand? Was it awkward? Did I leave something out? Did I say too much?
Most often, I've said WAAAAAAY too much! so i let my pen fly, scratching out, adding in, circling problem areas to come back to with a fresh eye, and then moving on. I edit to entire MS all the way through and then start transcribing the edits onto the screen. I use transcription as another round of revision, reacting anew to the edits and ironing them until the wrinkles are really gone. If something doesn't work, I don't leave it. I face it, axe it, start over, and just ask myself if i even need it at all? Sometimes the biggest struggles are due to forcing something that doesn't belong in the first place.
Best of luck. And remember, you're just saving a new version. Nothing is lost forever, and like that junk in your attic you might not even miss it after awhile...
Thanks for such a detailed explanation! I always wondered how others did it (edit / revise longer pieces), but never worried until I was faced with the challenge. I've spent a good part of the past month in edit mode (on the computer, using a color coded legend and highlighting system). I like it, but I have to have a computer to be working on the edits. I'm very tempted to bite the bullet and print out what I've done so far and continue with a pen / and my colored highlighters. This way, I can take it wherever I go.