Thursday, November 29, 2012

Revision Day Three: Mulling

My somewhat-less-rough draft! I'm so irrationally proud of its size that I had to post two pictures. Shh.
When last I left you, I was compiling my giant revision list of doom and preparing to run headlong into my draft, changing thing after thing after thing until there was nothing left. What really ended up happening is that I changed all the big things-- I wrote the new scenes I needed and edited the ones that needed heavy editing, and then what I was left with was a checklist that looked something like this:

1. Edit voice throughout.
2. Make sure group conversations aren't confusing throughout.
3. Etc. etc. etc. throughout.

Basically, I was left with a list of global edits that need to be applied to the entire draft, not just certain sections. So, rather than go through the draft once for all those global edits and then again for my basic line edits, I decided to do it all at the same time. And so: the mulling!

(Mulling: verb, meaning "to consider carefully.")

Without exception, every rough draft can benefit from a slow read-through, which is what I mean when I say "mulling." I want to emphasize the word slow because I tend to read my own drafts very quickly and in very short time frames, which means that I only read faster as I go because I just want to get it done. If you are like me, you could benefit from some mulling too, I think.

Some tips for the slow read-through:

1. Force yourself to read slowly. Set a goal like "I am only going to read one chapter an hour, and I'm only going to work for X amount of hours a day." Some of my chapters are only four or five pages long, so my limit will probably be something like three chapters an hour.

2. If you start to find yourself rushing, or annoyed with the whole process, STOP for the day. Rushing defeats the purpose of the slow read-through. You want to be careful, thoughtful, and thorough. If you can't do that on a certain day, put the draft aside and do something else. Read a book! Work on something else! Give your brain a break and come back to it the next day.

3. Keep a notebook nearby. Every time I do a read-through, certain parts of the draft remind me of later parts that need editing. At that point I am tempted to flip forward and edit those later parts first, which makes me lose my read-through momentum. Instead, I make myself write those reminders down and edit only when I reach that part of the story in my read-through, and that helps.

4. Print it out. You can send your manuscript to your local printer, pay to print at your school library (if they charge for that), or absorb the cost and print at home-- but whatever way you do it, printing the draft out can be a good way to make yourself read slowly if you tend to rush through words when they're on a screen, like I do. Also, it's fun to hold a fat stack of paper in your hand and say to people "I WROTE THIS!" (Not that I do that. *cough*)

5. Read tricky parts out loud. It will help. (I actually recommend reading the whole thing out loud, but sometimes that's just not practical.) You will notice awkward phrasing or inconsistencies better, and it's a lot easier to edit for voice if you're saying the words.

6. Decide on a good "input" plan. The point of printing the draft out, for me, is so that I can take notes directly on it-- but that means eventually, I'll have to input the changes in the actual word document. This can be tedious and annoying. My plan for this Mulling is to leave time each day to make the changes, rather than trying to do it all at once. But maybe you want to make a long day of making the changes-- that's great! Just make sure you know what works best for you.

Now I am going to stock up on chai tea and rice crackers and red pens and knock this baby out next to my Christmas tree.

Happy Mulling, everyone!


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