Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Diving into revision

Judging by my recent vacation which unexpectedly doubled in length, apparently Fate decided I needed a break from Project Demo.

Just before I left Bristol, I had finished rewriting my rough draft, and made a six page of list of everything I knew was wrong with it. I took the list with me, and occasionally took it out of my bag and stared at it despondently while I was traveling. But other than that, I left Project Demo alone, didn't even bother to to download the file saved in my email.

I'm hoping all those tropes about absence making the heart grow fonder and seeing more clearly with fresh eyes hold true for me. But in the meantime, after so much time not writing, I'm struggling to figure out how to start writing again, and how to dive into my revision.

Everything in writing is so intricately connected. I thought I could work on streamlining my plot first, so I spent most of yesterday outlining. But it's hard to imagine tackling my plot until all of my characters have clearly defined arcs, which may mean adding, deleting, or changing scenes. Then I decided that all sounded like too much work, and I'd just worry about my setting. Then I realized that any text I added might get revised anyway if my plot and characters changed.

Author Anita Nolan has an excellent article, reprinted on her website, about how to tackle the revision process efficiently, step by step. Even if I'm not sure some of her ideas will work for me, just reading it makes my head feel clearer. It also reminds me that revision is a process. Project Demo won't be thoroughly revised in one day. Or even one month. Bird by bird, as Anne Lamott said.

I think I'll start with one of my major characters and work from there.

Just as soon as I finish blogging, and checking my email, and...

How do you dive into revision?


  1. It varies for me. Sometimes I "trick" myself into it - I start editing nit-picky stuff - grammar, sentence structure, etc. As I do that, I get re-immersed in the voice and the story, and I'll find that suddenly, fixing a particular sentence sparks something and before I know it I'm adding new content or revising on a larger scale with real enthusiasm because the whole thing has suddenly become clearer in my mind.

    Good Luck!

  2. After I've had ample time away to forget as much as possible, I dive right in. I have different steps in my revision process. I'll read through for voice and clarity. Then I go through again looking for consistency issues. There are always some. Then I'll check the pacing. Then... Oh it just goes on and on. In the beginning, I'm all energetic and excited but by the end, I'm dragging my fingers across the keys. That's when I know I need time away again.

  3. Interesting how everyone is so individual in the way they approach revision!

    Elisabeth: That's kind of how I have been working. Who knows if I sparked something, but today was the first day I really started figuring out connections and concretely what needs to be done: a big revision of one scene. Hopefully it isn't too painful tomorrow!

    Kelly: Ohhh, I'm so jealous! I wish I had your gung-ho spirit going into this! I think I get more excited the less there is to do, when I can see it all coming together. Right now it still just looks like a big ugly mess! =)

  4. When I want to get back into a project that has been sitting for a while, I take the manuscript and read it out loud. I don't even think about what I'm going to do yet, I just read. THEN, I go back and begin with character, character arc, and plot, etc. I've even taped myself reading and played it back. That works great (but then again I write short so...).

  5. I've also had to take a mini-break from my novel project. I always try with the main character and work through her arc. Then I just dive right back in -- usually at the scene level.

    Good luck with your revisions. :)

  6. Andrea: Reading the novel aloud sounds exhausting just thinking about it! ;) But I do think that's great advice. It's a way to get your feet wet again. I haven't done that exactly, but I have been dipping in and out of scenes, adding some markers in the text, re-reading my list of questions, and it's helped. I do find it incredibly helpful hearing how all the text sounds, though. That will probably end up being the next revision step.

    Karen: I felt pretty comfortable with my main character, so I started with one of my secondary (but still important) characters. It's been a really good writing day, actually, and I'm discovering a lot. A lot of work, but at least I have a direction now! Good luck getting back into the flow of your work, too.

  7. I take breaks between rewrites and revisions. I also patiently wait for critique group and beta feedback. It's hard to dive back in. I'm doing so right now, and I redid my outline to make it easier to shift scenes around.

    Good luck with your project. I'll check out that link.

  8. Medeia: So glad I'm not the only one who finds it hard to dive back in! I keep tweaking my outline, too, hoping to make it all come together. Good luck with your project, too!


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