Monday, January 3, 2011

Revision Hades

On Saturday, while out running errands with my husband, I mentioned how nice it was that we still had a full day of free time ahead of us.  His response was ecstatic--he had thought it was already Sunday and was dreading going back to work the next day.  Something similar happened to me today, when I woke up, checked my phone, and saw the calendar notification that today is a work holiday at my company.  Hooray for unexpected free days!  How did I miss knowing about this?

I should make an effort to clean my apartment today, but I think that instead, I am going to get cracking on those revisions.  Plug in the hard drive, open MS Word, open the file ThirdPassRevisions.doc (not Goodlorddontdothatagain.doc, the file I created when I realized that I had two similarly-named files and was making separate revisions in each, crap!).  Look at doc.  Re-read first chapter.  Jump to tenth chapter.  Get overwhelmed by sheer size of doc.  Slam head into back of couch and groan.

This is me vs. the revisions.  Get it??

When revisions are comprised mostly of line edits and sentence smoothing, it's fine to go chapter by chapter.  However, right now I'm making major changes to one of my subplots in order to tighten up the whole story.  I've written notes on the changes and written them into an outline, but when it comes time to write them into the actual document, that is when scrubbing the kitchen floor starts to seem really important.

What is the best method here?  Do you start rewriting the entire thing from scratch?  I feel like that would be counterproductive for me.  Do you go chapter by chapter?  I didn't even include chapter breaks in my first draft, what a doofus.  (I've got them now.)  I'm going with the piecemeal approach, and hopefully when I'm done, I'll still be able to look at the whole thing with enough distance to smooth out the rough edges.

How do you approach revisions?

(Note: if you have something nice to say about Scrivener, say it now.  I downloaded the trial version, but the whole thing just looked kind of exhausting.  I wrote my entire first draft in one chapter-free file in Google Docs, is that nuts?)

(Second note: By one chapter-free file, I actually mean two chapter-free files, because Google Docs has a character limit.  Lame!)

(Third note:  I have a resolution to incorporate more structure into my posting schedule, but said structure is yet to be determined.  Thanks to everyone who is following my blog, I really appreciate it!!)


  1. I used Scrivener for NaNoWriMo and really liked it. I didn't type my story directly into the program, but used it to type up character notes and for outlining chapters and breaks. It helped keep me organized, but I need to use it more in-depth to know for sure if I want to keep it.

  2. I know authors who use Scrivener, but I can't understand the mindset behind using such a thing. I've looked at it, played with it, but to me, Scrivener:Writing = Looking at Post Cards from Africa:Being Eaten by Lions.

    I know that wasn't nice.

    I just use Word. That's it. But having chapter breaks is definitely a swell idea, especially when revising. I agree with you on the line edits bit... piece of cake, but, for what it's worth (and I don't outline), when I have to work in a subplot, change something that's happened to something else, etc. I think about it for a really long time.

    I try to think about the places in my book where seeing those "ripples" would make sense. Sometimes, I will put a numbered list (this is not an outline!!!) at the end of my manuscript, telling me what needs to be changed and where. Then, when I'm ready, I'll go back and make the changes.

    Naturally, I always save as a different file, or I email the entire thing to myself (I also use Mac's Time Machine program, so my obsessive hoarding of every version and word I have ever made is satisfied).

    If I'm near the end of the road, I may make the changes in RED font. Then, when I go back through for the last look-over for line edits, I get a better feel as to whether or not the ripples fit in correctly.

    In any event, when these kinds of things need to be done, they are distractingly discomforting.

    Good luck.

  3. I'm getting the vague impression that you don't like outlines... I didn't start with one, but once I was finished I had to scribble down at least one or two lines for each chapter, then shrink it down to tiny font so it would fit on one page and enable me to wrap my head around the story as a whole. I guess that is what writing a synopsis is for, too, if I were inclined to write one.
    Thanks for the advice!

  4. I'm a plotter, even though I've never used Scrivener. I typically write out the plot outline, then I take that and write a synopsis. If you're going to send the novel somewhere, you have to have a synopsis, and I've heard it helps to have one before you write your novel. It doesn't mean everything won't change later on once you are writing, though.

    I'm currently doing revisions for an old NaNoWriMo novel. I've decided to rewrite it, since there is so much I want to change, including the characters' ages and such, but at the same time, I'm using a lot of the chapters still out there, and I used the old plot outline to write my new plot outline.

    I don't know how much you are changing your novel, but I think a chapter by chapter basis would be a great start. You can see what you need to add, change, and write new.

  5. Yeah, I really took the wing-it approach for this ms, but since there is a mystery element, it would have helped a lot if I'd had a clearer plan. Then again, the plan evolved through writing the thing, so I guess it's kind of a Catch-22. I started incorporating the changes yesterday--equal parts fun and painful :)