Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Revision Day Two: The Giant List of Doom

In the interest of providing insight into my revising process (which is always the same), and possibly ideas for others trying to revise, I am blogging about revising as I go. This is a continuation of yesterday's Revision Day One: The Read-Through.

So I did my read-through, I noted all the problems I noticed as I went, and I made my giant list of solutions to the problems that came up as I read or that I identified later. At this point, I probably should be feeling overwhelmed, but since I've had a can of orange soda and half a bag of Baked Lays, I'm feeling okay, actually, if slightly ill, and ready to move on to the next step.

What do I do with my giant list of doom, you ask? First, I group my solutions into two categories: global issues and local issues.

Allow me to explain:

Global issues are problems for which solutions need to be applied to the entire draft, or to large sections of the draft, like "the dynamic between these two characters needs to be different in this way" or "the main character needs to think about this issue periodically throughout the story until this point."

Local issues are problems for which solutions apply to specific scenes or specific groups of scenes, like "I need to add this plot development right after page 154."

Local issues become global issues when you, say, add a scene and then have to edit the rest of the draft to reflect that scene, or when you delete a scene and have to remove all subsequent mentions of that scene.

After I've divided my list into those categories (and this will usually involve writing more global issues down, because usually when you change a local issue you create a global issue, if you know what I mean). I open my handy dandy Scrivener, but you can also use a notebook or another Word document, if you choose to use this method. (By the way, what you see in my screenshots is an early version of Insurgent, with all details removed. This is not my first rodeo.)

I divide the manuscript into "movements" or sections to make things easier, and for each section, I write a list of the global issues that I need to address in each section. Maybe I won't need to address them in every scene, but I do need to be aware of them for each section. (The reason I divide into sections in the first place is that a particular global issue may only apply to the beginning or the end of the manuscript, or something like that, so they won't be the same the whole way through.)

Then for each scene or chapter, I put a list of local edits on the right side, in the box labeled "document notes." (In Word or OpenOffice this can easily be replicated by putting a "comment" next to each chapter heading. That's how I did it before I got Scrivener.)

the arrow is pointing at the document notes box. You can type in there!

Then I usually go back to my list again and think about what the most difficult section of the draft is going to be, or what the most difficult issue I have to address is going to be, and I tackle that first. The reason I do that is that the fear or apprehension related to the most difficult stuff will usually haunt me through the rest of the draft, and it's much better for me to just get it over with. Rip off the band-aid!

I don't worry about editing out of order, either, though I will usually proceed through one section at a time so as not to get confused. Then, when I finish each scene in a section, I label it with a color to make myself feel good about it, and I delete the local issues I typed in the document notes box. (It's like checking off a box!) (Note: with Word you can just...delete the comment before each chapter you finish!)

When I finish with a section, I delete the extra document listing all the global issues for that section.

I try to set goals like "this week I will finish with section 1, which means I have to do one scene every day and two scenes on one day." This ensures that I stay focused and motivated.

I should note that I didn't always do it this way-- it depends on how many "global issues" you have. When I have written drafts that have very few global issues (like Divergent-- most of my edits for Divergent involved adding new scenes), I have just written a long list of scenes to write or fix, arranged them in order of decreasing difficulty, and went through the draft item by item. That is simpler and will work for some drafts-- it just depends on how you work best, and on what your manuscript requires.

And that's it for the Big Edits, folks. Next time I post about this I'll be talking about smaller scale edits, like on the sentence level, and with grammar and punctuation, and special read-throughs you might want to do (reading for specific problems, etc.).


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