Have you ever had a certain outcome in mind, but no matter how hard you try, it just never lives up to what you imagined? We’ve all been there.
I’ve written a total of ~6 full manuscripts in my writing career. While I’m young and my writing skill rapidly improves from year to year, one thing I am sure of is my ability to revise. My strongest writing element is dialogue. I know I have a superfluous amount of things to learn, but I understand my skill in properly executing dialogue.
That being said, in the arduous process of writing a book, I find that the area I knock out of the park every time is revision. By this, I mean I am fairly good at checking off every box and reaching the outcome I desire. I am not indicating I know everything about everything when it comes to writing a book, for I have yet to be agented, but I’m skilled at reaching my goal.
My intention with this blog post is to share my techniques that you might find helpful in working to obtain your own vision.
It’s now the end of August and I’ve received my feedback and critiques from my beta readers for my YA fantasy novel. And now–it’s time to try and apply their comments in the ways I find appropriate.
The current state of this novel is, I’ll be honest, kind of a mess. I need to tighten yet expand certain areas and make more connections between certain scenes and arcs. There is a lot of work to do that simply looking at my manuscript makes me want to throw my computer out of the window. (Tip: don’t do that.)
After avoiding revising and then looking at authors’ Instagram accounts and remembering how much I want a full-time writing career, I sat back down and slapped some sense into myself.
Novels have layers, right? We all know this. It goes from the outermost layer–the overall intention of the story. Then it gets deeper–where we use character names and give the description a bit more color. Then we add more detail. And more. Until we get to line edits and grammar and so on.
My novel is broken up into three parts: Act I, II, and III. Since there are many notes and areas to alter, I broke my revision guide down to “Act I Revisions.” I made an entire Word document dedicated to everything I must work at.
I first started by typing the stats. It looks something like this:
ACT I REVISION
After this, I typed up my “what if?” questions and the sentences gathering the point of my book. These techniques are from Lisa Cron’s book Story Genius. Friends had been recommending this book for months and months and I am mad at myself for not picking it up earlier! This book is immensely helpful and I cannot encourage you to read it enough!
Now that I wrote the outermost layer, I get a little more specific. I simply listed my main characters. Easy. Then I get a tiny more specific by listing everything I need to fix–in a general sense. For example:
AREAS TO FIX:
Worldbuilding (Pretend the bullets below are indented. I don’t know how to work WordPress)
- World history
- (X Country history)
- (X history)
Person A and Person B relationship
Once the bare bones of the revision document is complete, I expand on the bullet points about more specifics. Once these general concerns are written, I started pasting my beta readers’ comments from Act I. I literally copied and pasted the lines that included their comments under a section labeled with their name.
My next step is getting even more specific: write what to change with each chapter. I label chapter one (and change it from default to header for easy access) and recopy and paste beta comments from my first chapter. I type up what I want to focus on and revise for that chapter.
You can write chapter summaries under the title if you forget the content of the chapter while you’re expanding your list of revision needs. For the first few chapters, I personally do not need summaries, but I do need them as I progress.
My final tip would be to gather your revision outlines for the first five or so chapters, then begin revising the actual manuscript. That way, you can make sure you’re on the right track and that you’re not wandering while you make your outlines.
But don’t forget to often reread the sentences about the point/intention of your novel and your overall goals. I find that, sometimes when I revise, I forget my original goal.
I hope this has helped you in some way or another!
What’s your favorite step of writing? Developing your idea, writing the first draft, or revising?