Monday, February 7, 2011

Processes Part Two: Revisions

Today I'm continuing our in-depth look at my writing process.  Enjoy!

So you've written a book.  You've done the celebrating.  You've jumped up and down and shouted from the rooftops what an amazing genius you are.

Now what?

Hold tight, my friends, because now comes the hard part.  Some people like to wait a while before they jump into revising a manuscript.  Me?  Not so much.  Not if I'm still in love with the story.

Whenever you're ready, this is how I suggest you start.

1.  If you don't have a critique group / partner / beta readers -- start looking for one or several.  Be prepared to critique their work in return for having your own critiqued.  This is one of the most valuable relationships you can form during your writing career, in my opinion.  I tell ya, I don't know what I would do without my crit buddy and beta readers.  Not only do they give solid, helpful feedback, but they're my friends.  They're always there to lend an ear when I've got a new idea, or if I need to whine.  :)  But I try not to whine too much.

2.  While hunting for that amazing group of writers to work with, dust off that first draft.  Look at it and accept the fact that it still needs lots of work.  That may seem like nothing, but I promise, this is a necessary step.  You must realize, and be ready for, the amount of work you are going to have to do.

3.  Start reading.  Try not to focus on the little things like comma placement yet.  You need to read for big picture problems.  Plot holes, structure, pacing, and development.  (Yes, I realize you are still going to fix grammar as you go, and that's fine, but don't get bogged down in it.  I do it too.)

4.  After you've gone through your draft at least once and revised out any issues you found in that step, it's time for fresh eyes.  In steps the critique partner.  At this stage, I find it easier to go scene by scene with critiques.  It allows for a much more in-depth look at each piece of the story individually.  You're going to get a better feel for the pacing and basic scene progression this way.  Plus, when the comments come back, it's not quite as overwhelming to go at 6-10 pages at a time.

5.  Okay, so after probably a few months, you've made it through the story with your crit partner.  Woot!  But, you've probably also spotted one or two major plot holes that need to be addressed as well.  Right?  Yeah.  I know I always do.  So, dive back in, lovelies, we're getting close!

6.  Look at that shiny and bright MS!  Oh, my, it's practically a Cullen with all those sparkles!  You've done a good job polishing that up, friends, but don't hit send on that query quite yet.  We're not quite done.  This is the step that can really take that MS from Cullen sparkles to diamonds.  Beta readers.  By now you and your crit partner are so familiar with this story you can't be objective any more.  It's time for betas.  I, personally, have three people I trust to beta my WIP.  They all bring different strengths to the table, and they'll all find different little problems to be fixed.  You may want to send your MS to all of them at once, or you may stagger it to fix some things in between.  I do the latter because I'm a perfectionist.

7. Wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Because with betas you send the whole MS at once.  So it's going to take a lot longer to get feedback than just a scene would.  And waiting is no fun, I know, but it is so necessary.

8.  Once you get that beta feedback, and make the necessary changes, guess what, lovelies?  We're still not done.  Gah.  Are you sick of me yet?  I never realized what a convoluted process I follow, but it is so worth it!  I promise!  Because now, we're going to print that MS out.  Put it in a different font, trust me.  Now we're going to do our nit-picky line edits.  Woot!  That different font is really going to help you catch things you wouldn't otherwise.  Neatest trick ever.

After that, my dears, you should have a MS that sparkles like the brightest diamond.  And you should celebrate all of your hard work!  What do you guys think?  Do you take all these steps in your process?


Susan said...

Hahahaha--practically a Cullen. Best line ever.

I follow something similar...sounds like a strong approach to revisions! There is no quick & easy answer--it took me 1 month to write SPIRIT-HUNTERS and 9 months to revise it into something worthy of an agent's eyes!

What you've got here is a great layout for a noob writer to peruse. Seriously, revisions are SO important.

And of course, once you've sold your book, all your time is spent doing MORE REVISIONS!! :D

Good thing I love revising more than writing. ;)

Holly Dodson said...

Thanks, Susan! That's what I was going for...a basic outline of the process. I will admit, what I actually do is a bit more intensive, and has several more steps, but this works for a jumping-off point. :)

Everyone has to find their own groove.

I've definitely come to love revising as well. My WIP took a month to write, and I'm into month 4 of revisions. :D Still going strong!

Misha said...

Never got this far before. But I will definitely try these steps.

hmmm... To find a crit partner...


Pam Harris said...

I definitely cannot stress how important it is to have some kind of beta reader. You need to see your WIP through another person's eyes. Just because something makes sense to you doesn't mean it'll make sense to others. :)

Angela Felsted said...

I've yet to do it "right" but I can imagine if I did I wouldn't regret it.

Carrie said...

Awesome post! I definitely don't want my WIP to be some kind of Cullen...I'm going for the full diamond! It is hard to believe how much work and waiting it takes to get something ready to send out. Thanks for being so honest and laying it out for those of us who are still up at the top of the list.

KO: The Insect Collector said...

great advice, and love the Cullen line