I’m now a solid week into the revision process on this novel, and since I’ve recently had questions about how to tackle a big revision, I think I will detail the procedure I’m following here. It may or may not be helpful to those undertaking their own revisions, but it might offer a starting point or help you figure out your own method. I’ll have to break this down into several parts to provide the kind of detail I’m going to get into.
I had already read through this particular manuscript a couple of times looking for things to fix, but I had not tackled anything major. My general impression from these initial read-throughs was that it was basically okay, but ran a bit short, needed a few more scenes, concluded too quickly, and needed some further development of the world and the magic system–at least for my own understanding. There were inconsistencies requiring attention, a long section of chapters where a particular character seemed to disappear (I don’t mean he disappeared in the story, I mean he disappeared FROM the story), and I felt that the world and some of the characters needed deepening.
Before I started, I reread two Holly Lisle articles I remembered reading a while back: they are here and here. While I`m not following either method exactly, I do use a lot of her advice from these articles. They are well worth the time it takes to read them.
I`m also using a piece of software to assist me: Writer`s Cafe, particularly the StoryLines application. StoryLines “is a multi-storyline planning tool that helps you weave a set of virtual index cards into a finished, formatted story.” You can see a screenshot of it here. You can download a free trial of this program and see if it works for you; you could also do essentially the same thing with a big stack of index cards (but not as neatly).
In addition to the software, I started with:
- all previous notes, character sheets, and jottings concerning the novel
- a binder with looseleaf
- colored pens, pencil, and highlighter
- a clean printout of the novel manuscript, including all notes I`ve made in the ms while writing or reading it. In my case, these have each printed out (instead of inline) on their own sheet of paper, so I have to figure out how to deal with that.
- an area big enough to hold the binder, a couple of different piles of manuscript pages, and my laptop, on which I`m using the software
I set up StoryLines to keep track of three things: a scene-by-scene breakdown of the action of the novel, which characters appeared in each scene, and a timeline of when and where each scene took place. Especially because this began life as a NaNoWriMo novel (which means it was written in a very fast first draft), I knew that there were probably inconsistencies of time and place. Here`s what my StoryLines sheet looks like:
You can see that the chapter numbers and titles appear in the black ovals, scene numbers in little white boxes, and that I have three horizontal rows of cards: purple for `Scene-by-Scene,` mauve for `Character Tracking,`and green for `Timeline and Location.` I can see at a glance what happened in a given scene, who was there, and where and when it took place.
So with that all set up, I choose a pen color to start with, and begin reading from the first line of the manuscript.
…to be continued…
*Photo credit: ladyheart at morguefile.com