Need Help w/ a Revision Question
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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!!!

  • Congratulations on finishing your first draft. That's brilliant.

    I am definitely of the category who likes to print out my ms. I then take it with a cup of coffee and sit on my small patio, or to the park, or a coffeehouse. I like the feel of the paper. I do find it easier to edit the further I am from having finished the material—I'm more objective. Now it's all about tightening up the story. When I finished my ms, since I don't write linearly, it was very hard for me to see if I had the whole story. I write pieces and then put them together. I've attempted to make breakdowns of chapters, breakdowns of individual characters' story lines, anything to see if any of it is making a whole! I was very lucky to have four acquaintances offer to read my first draft. Two of them were amazons! They did such thorough readings and every criticism was so spot on; it really helped me move into the next stage.

    Best of luck!

  • 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.

  • Hi!

    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...


  • 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:

    Blog Revision Party

  • 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!

  • 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.