Nathan Bransford, Author

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How Do You Revise?

Ah, revisions. Achilles heel of the impatient, the great equalizer of the hardworking, and nearly as important as writing itself.

So how do you do it?

Do you start at the beginning? Trust your critique group? Do one sweep? Throw it out and write again? Kill scenes?

And if your answer is "I don't"..... well, you'd better start by revising that response.


Adaora A. said...

I'm for some reason - strange considering I'm a product of the 'computers in elementary schools girl - writing my latest WIP in longhand. So I've written several chapters and now I'm going throw and revising as I type it to MS Word. Then I'll go and carry on doing some more in longhand, and then revise as I transcribe her to MS Word once again.

When that song and dance is finished I'll pass it to a few trustworthy readers who will mark the hell out of it and then I'll edit it accordingly on my MS. Then I'll present them with the edited version and see what the think.

Once it's done I'll start writing my 'first date' queries to carefully selected agents, hoping for a 'second date.!'

I've absolutely backspaced a full four pages of work on my laptop. You've got to do what you've got to do.

Revisions are te equalizer of the hardworking. It makes you look critically - aside from the flurry of excitement - and really dig in you - to see what has to go and what can stay

Sam Hranac said...

"Do you start at the beginning? Trust your critique group? Do one sweep? Throw it out and write again? Kill scenes?"


Plus I pick and pluck, experiment, second guess my critique group, and pray that a smart agent or editor will take me on and add to my input.

bookbabie said...

Start at the beginning after letting the words rest for a few weeks.

val said...

How do I revise? Oooo, let me count 'em:

1)With wild weeping and gnashing of teeth!

2)Reluctantly. (It just ain't as much fun as the original creative rush, so I'd rather start/work on a new story.)

3)I use the critique suggestions that make sense to me (aka that I agree with) and leave the rest.

4)Usually, several versions of rewrite are necessary before I'm reasonably satisfied.

5)Who am I trying to kid? I never stop re-editing my work. Almost always spot SOME word or phrase that I can do better---Make that: improve on.;~>

Brigid said...

One of the best pieces of advice I found regarding revisions was to take a hard look at the scenes I love -- the ones I loved writing, the ones I love going back and reading, the ones I just couldn't imagine out of my story -- and then delete them. The advice said that generally those scenes are ones in which you have a moment with your characters, not something intrinsic to the story. Nine times out of ten, it's been correct.

I think you typically know it in your gut what needs to go. With my first work in progress, I kept telling my husband, "If I can just get an agent to read the whole thing, I'm sure I'll find one." Well, partial after partial came back with rejections. Then I finally got a full request, and I was elated. The first few lines of my full rejection read, "Hey Brigid: There's no plot here. Ninety-six pages of exposition is just too much." After sobbing (It's the post partum hormones. Really.), I realized that what I was really saying to my husband was if I could get an agent to get to the plot, I'd land one. So I cut twenty thousand words of that manuscript, and when I was done, I knew I suddenly had this tighter, better, more engaging story. And that was after cutting all these scenes I just *knew* I had to have.

But even better, when that was all done, I took another look at that manuscript and said, "I can do better than this." And now I am. I'm 20K words into a new manuscript, and already, it feels better, tighter, than the first one. I never thought I could do better than what I wrote in the first one, and here I am doing it.

So revisions are our friends!

mlh said...

Ha, ha, ha! First date queries! Adaora, you're too kinky with that one. Hope the agents start you out on an easy street. *wink, wink*

I just edited seventeen chapters with seven more I still need to ink down. This was about my fifth (and hopefully final) round for them. But I'm not holding my fingers crossed.

I edit whenever I'm stuck with a chapter and write a chapter when I'm stuck on my editing. I dream about editing and wake up at three in the morning writing down the edits so I don't forget. Restless night's sleep.

I've also killed scenes with little remorse and dry eyes.

It all works out in the end.

benwah said...

I started writing first drafts longhand back in college, and that's become my pattern. The first draft is notes, lots of abbreviations, plenty of arrows and circles moving things around. Then I enter everything into the computer to come up with a real first draft.

But I don't write the whole thing out, start to finish, before transcribing the notes to the computer. Usually I go to the midpoint of the story and then hammer away at the keyboard. This lets me learn about my characters and plot, and frequently points me toward the ending. (Prior to this I have an idea of where the story will end up, but it's more like a compass point than a roadmap.)

My edits are almost always done on paper. I mark up the MS pages something fierce and frequently write my corrected or new sentences on the facing pages. The more work I do longhand here, the easier it is just to enter the edits at the computer later. I do about 3-4 passes, start to finish, in order. There are some chapters I look forward to doing more than others, but rather than charging ahead on those, I work sequentially.

The funny part for me is that the hardest stage is whatever stage I'm currently mired in. The easiest stage is whatever stage is next.

pete osborne said...

Hi Nathan,

The second draft is a tricky beast. The sheer volume of it - 347 pages - is hard to manage. Saw the PCMagazine review (online) of yWriter 4.0 and started futzing with it. It crashed and took everything with it the first time, which was...breathtaking is not the right word, but the first one that comes to mind...Still, the limited exposure to it before the crash was enough for me to forgive and try again.

I'm very intrigued by it's ability to break out the chapters by scene and tag each scene by character's POV. After the crash, I was going to bail, but the POV feature had me hooked, the sexy little beast.

I'll continue to work with it and can report back if you'd like. In fact, I'm considering the tool for managing the thousands of pages of Web content at my Day Job.

And no, I didn't lose a bet or owe the developer money. Just trying to find a better way.

Travis Erwin said...

I revise as I construct the first draft. Every time I get stuck or hit a snag I edit my way from the beginning to the rough patch that derailed me.

Then when I am totally finished with draft one I wait a few weeks and read as a reader would without a pen. Things that struck me as wrong I then address and then I read through again with a red pen and get picky.

revanche2 said...

The art of revising is a process that most writers love and hate in unison. The process I have is fairly straight forward multipul step process. First I start with a computer read through. While reading through I will correct grammar, spelling, sentence structure, and line revisions. Additionally and I love word for this system I will drop comments about connect I want added or sections that need retooling. After that and the comments are completed I do another read through to ensure everything still has a good flow and to see if I catch anything else. Once that revision is completed I farm out the book or short story to critic groups and friends for their opinions. While they are taking the time to read the novel I move on to doing other projects so I have a fresh presepective when I return to the work. I then review the comments, scream and rant, make all the changes that I feel are nessecary (usually anything that comes up more than once, any missed grammar, or clairifications needed). Than after the corrections are made I do another read through on this time on a hard copy with my handy pen. Once all those corrections are made I farm it out again for a final read through. Once all those changes are made I sigh and being a new project.

Anonymous said...

I revise iteratively, making copy and style edits while making plot and structure notes. Then, during plot and structure edits I might get a list of stylistic edits - I notice overall style issues (reusing a word too often, for example) when reading more quickly. After those are done it goes out to two trusted editor, gets a polish, then writers critique group, gets a polish, and then, with this last novel, I gave it to a book club of possible readers to see if it worked overall. That feedback actually caused me to change the last chapter - it wasn't ending on the right beat - but also helped me take to starting the query process.

(If any of you have specific feelings about the inclusion of a book club's reaction in query, I'd be interested. It feels a bit contrived to put it in a CV, but it was also me legitimately doing market research to see if the novel would have readers.)

Anonymous said...

Although I obviously don't revise blog comments.

PTH said...

First step, send via email--one chapter at a time--to my two critique buddies. I compare their comments and make changes. Then it's read in person at a weekly critique group. More revisions ultimately follow whenever I reread it. It's never done; it just eventually gets placed aside.

Steph Leite said...

I revise as best I can by myself (awkward structures, out!) but I miss a lot of things too. I think it's vital that writers have someone who they know is impartial look over their work. Better yet, get more than one person. And quite frankly, your best friend, mom, boyfriend, husband, etc, are not impartial, are not the best critics, and aren't going to do you a whole lot of good.

I, on the other hand, have one terrific best friend who is not afraid to tell it to me like it is. I've gotten emails saying, "Rewrite this now--doesn't work," and then she goes on to tell me why and how I can fix it. It's a blessing to have a friend like her, and she's the only one I trust with my work.

In all, get more people to read your book--they'll shed some new funky light you've never seen before.

r.c. said...

I actually like revising. Maybe because the first draft spews forth undeterred by logic or proper grammar. The first couple of revisions are fun - like gardening, trimming up here, rearranging there.

It's when I get to the fifth, or sixteenth pass that it gets tiresome and I start procrastinating by reading blogs, and then the blogs of readers of the first blogs, and then . . .

I better leave now.

Don said...

Step one: Write a first draft.
Step two: Write a second draft, retyping everything. Repeat as necessary.
Step three: Get critique feedback
Step four: Incorporate feedback. If necessary, go back to step two.
Step five: Let it sit.
Step six: Re-read and revise. If necessary go back to step two.
Step seven: Submit.

Annalee said...

I begin with an edit-as-I-go process that starts with my outline and continues through the entire drafting process. At the outline stage, that's where I make sure I know what's going on with my plot, pacing, and characters. I use that to keep me on track during drafting, but it turns into a sort of back-and-forth process where the outline and the draft keep rewriting each other until everything's all settled out.

Once I reach 'The End,' my outline and my draft kiss and make up and pack their bags for a weekend in Tahiti. I stay behind and catch up on my coursework.

I have another look over the draft when it gets back from vacation, usually to discover that it blew all its spending money on booze and women (the outline doesn't usually make it back from holiday at all; a phenomenon on which the draft is oddly silent and defensive). This means I have to spend a few weeks drying the dumb sot out and finding it a cure for whatever nasties it picked up while I wasn't looking. I also do my best to pay off its bar tabs and settle its gambling debts.

Then it goes off to the beta readers, who give it a thorough look-over and inform me that it's been hiding the booze and narcotics and just popping them while I wasn't looking. The may or may not discover that it still has The Desk Drawer Clap and suggest treatment options.

Back to intensive rehab it goes, kicking, screaming, and swearing that if I'd raised it right, it wouldn't have fallen prey to so many horrible vices (A point I'm forced to concede, but I counter that everything will get better when it gives up what's holding it back). This takes a few more weeks, off and on with coursework, before I send it back to the betas again to find out what it's been hiding under the other stuff it was hiding. Rinse and repeat until it really is clean and ready for the real world.

Then I wash its hair, buy it a suit, and send it out to get a job.

Bernita said...

I revise as I go.
When I have a relatively clean draft I print it out and go over it again.
Have beta readers go over it.
Let it sit.
Go over it again.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had a critique group. I don't. I do rolling revisons during the first draft, trying to fix awkward sentences and comma issues.

The second draft I close illogical plot holes and rewrite any character inconsistancies.

Third through seventh drafts I try to make it less clumsy and more pretty.

Then I give it to my agent and wait patiently for her to slog through it. She comes back with a page or two of comments, bless her, which says this, this and that has got to go! Then I go back in my writing cave and try to hack out those notes as best I can.

Best writing advice I ever got was at a writers conference where Robert Crais said if you can't make a section good at least make it short. Words to live by. I mean write by.

K.C. Shaw said...

I'm working on revisions this afternoon, as it happens, ugh ugh ugh.

For a project of any length, as soon as I've finished it I reread the whole thing in one sitting if possible. I fix any continuity errors, grammar and spelling, maybe move some paragraphs around or delete small scenes.

Then I set it aside and let it rest--a few days for short stories, a few weeks or months for novels. Then another full reread. At that point I have a good idea of the flow of the story and hopefully know what I need to do to fix any problems.

Currently I'm going off a page of jotted notes so I won't forget anything, since I'm having to add a character. Once I'm done with the writing part of these revisions, I'll reread the whole thing again to see how my additions flow, and I'll fix any minor problems I missed earlier.

By the time a story is ready to go out, I've usually read it so often I'm entirely sick of it. That doesn't stop me from rereading and revising again after almost every reject.

tlmorganfield said...

I used to revise directly into the previous draft's document, but I found I didn't cut and rewrite nearly as much as necessary doing it like that. It was too easy to let "good enough" go. So for about the last year I've adopted retyping the whole thing for at least one draft. That makes me reconsider every word choice and sentence structure, and I've found I can actually cut close to 20% between first and second draft that way (I'm a very sloppy first draft writer).

I'm trying this method for the first time with a novel and so far I'm sold on it. I retyped the full second draft, which took approximately 5 weeks with working on it 5 days a week for about 6-8 hours a day, which resulted in cutting about 30k, a good chunk of it being just sloppy prose (and some straight out cutting entire scenes). Then I went through it to look for glaring errors and make some more prose changes, then it went off to the crit group. I'm still waiting to get the last of those crits in, but I've started outlining for the third rewrite based on early crits, and I'm thinking it will actually be easier to incorporate my significant changes by retyping it yet again (besides, a third pass at the prose couldn't hurt). After that I'll try to get one reader to give it a gander and make some final revision suggestions, then after doing those (which hopefully won't require yet another type-from-scratch rewrite), I'll call it good, at least until an editor or agent wants changes.

I actually love rewriting, probably even more than writing the first draft. For me the story only gets

tlmorganfield said...

That should have said "For me the story only gets truly good after rewriting."

Josephine Damian said...

I've developed a micro-edit technique which is a version of something I learned at the Donald Maass workshop, and I'll be blogging about it next week.

Basically, I edit as I go, writing the first draft and the second draft at the same time. No more critique groups for me. I've developed the ability to self edit (took me long enough to learn to willingly kill my darlings) and figure an agent will suggest changes, so I'll wait for their instructions before I make any changes.

I also do a lot of "pre-writing" -detailed outlines so that I can (hopefully) work out story problems before they become typed in MS form.

annathepiper said...

The process works for me like this:

1) Write the first draft, taking notes along the way about things I know are going to drive me nuts if I don't fix 'em later, but which will get in the way of me writing the story if I don't fix 'em now

2) Throw it at the beta readers and solicit comments for 6+ weeks while I work on something else

3) When beta reading is done, add all the beta comments to my own previous notes and start revising, chapter by chapter

4) Repeat 1-3 until I have something that feels ready to query.

Scott said...

It depends on what I'm trying to do.

I do a lot of general revisions on the computer, scene by scene or chapter by chapter, with my own ideas and input from my crit group.

When it's time for some focused revising, printing the thing and going through, looking for that one specific thing while ignoring everything else is best.

For example, if I want to do a modifier check, I'll print the ms (or the section I want to check), and use one colored highlighter to mark adjectives and another to mark adverbs. I find the words by skimming (if I actually read, it's all over), first just for adjs and then just for advs. The result is a colorful, in-my-face reminder that I used way too many modifiers.

That same approach works for other word-level things, like "was" or "-ing." The trick, though, is only looking for one thing at a time.

I'm currently changing a manuscript from third person to first person, basically a rewrite because there's much more to that than changing pronouns.

Kathryn Harris said...

When I first started writing my manuscript, the first version ended up on the heavy side -- 198,000 words (yikes).

I cut it down to 98,000 using advice given to by me a singer/songwriter friend of mine in Nashville. He told me: "Sometimes you've gotta cut your Little Darlins'."

So, here's what I did to cut 100,000 darling little words from my manuscript:

1. I decided what part of the story I wanted to tell. In novels there can easily be stories within a story, and there should be in order to give it depth, but if the story within your story takes away from or slows down your plot, then it's a little darlin that should probably be cut.

2. Find your bad writing habits and fix them. I find myself repeatedly using unnecessary prepositional phrases and words. Cut out general descriptions, too. general descriptions. What is old to one person may be young to another. Very is a four-letter waste of space, general does nothing to describe the public and brand doesn't describe new.

3. I took the knowledge I gained from working at a newspaper and applied it to my manuscript. In a newspaper, you have only between 10 and 25 inches to tell a full story. Cutting 100,000 words from a novel is nothing compared to trying to tell the full scope of a story in no more than 600 words.

Even now that I've revised and polished, I'm still finding things I should change. This is just where I started.

Kimber An said...

Hm, I think I've blogged about this before.

1) Slash & Burn - the story starts out a complete and huge mess in my head. I slash out the junk and burn it into a comprehensible first draft.

2)Flesh Out - this is more significant now that I'm working on a Time Travel. All those pesky little historical details, yanno.

3) Week & Polish - this has gotten a LOT easier since I read SAVE THE CAT! by Blake Snyder. It's a book about screenwriting. I use the index card method, jotting down one scene per card. It really makes this phase go so much faster too! All the excess scenes, words, grammar gunk gets weeded out and the prose gets polished.

4) Final Polish - just what it says.

Yes, I start at the beginning and try to be as ruthless as I can. Having a severe head-cold helps.

Anonymous said...

When I finished my first novel I sent it to an independent editor that I paid for out of my pocket. I received over forty pages of critique, all pertinent. So then for a week and a half I revised. This is my first novel and that's the way I did it. I guess I'll find out if I wasted my money or not.

Now it’s done and I have rehired the editor (at my expense again) to do a line by line edit. When it is done I hope to have a marketable novel that will catch the interest of an agent.

Nathan that brings up a question that I’m not sure you have covered in your blog. Should a first time writer have their manuscript professionally edited to give them a better chance, seeing that they are “unknown”? What are your thoughts on that?

Paul Phillips

My first chapter is posted on my website at: (if anyone is interested)

Nathan Bransford said...

re: paid editors.

If you need it, go for it. Some agents like that that authors take this step because it means the manuscript is probably in better shape. I'm kind of the opinion that you shouldn't necessarily need one.

Allie said...

Every time I write, I save a new version of my work. It makes deleting much less painful.

I take my writing group notes and sit on them for a few days and then go back and fix things.

I actually love revising. I map my story after the first draft and make sure it arcs in the right place and the character development works. I also read my work out loud to myself to make sure everything sounds right.

Anonymous said...

Man, oh Man, you ask the right questions!

First novel, wrote it. It was so close to me. I couldn't do much but read it a few times, with a lot of time in between. It had to settle.
I pulled it out seven years later and edited it and put it on the computer - a three month project.
A year later, I pulled it out and I edited it again- a three month project.

Then I let one person read it. Fabulous response. But I was uncomfortable. I put it back in the drawer. It might be ready, but "I" was not.

I wrote a second novel. Haven't edited it yet. Have considered throwing it out. It is so abstract.

I wrote a third novel. This one is fun. I am beginning by spell checking it. I know, horrible, but I wrote it in six weeks and it just poured out. No time for cleanup then.
I put it down for two months and researched more about craft. I thought about the characters. I took notes.
Now I am into the spell check stage.
I am planning on going through it at least twice after that for a full editing, adding in from notes and research too. I have given this one a year to prepare for sending out.
In the meantime, I just read three excerpts from my first novel to my writing group. I almost didn't. Their writing is so good. But I did and the response was - they responded! Imagine! They think it is ready. Maybe I am finally too.
First toe in the water, anyway.

Kristi said...

Time is the key for me. I have to let my words sit and ferment for a while. I have to have time to forget what I was attempting to write, and be able to read the words I actually wrote.

I don't do beginning-to-end deep revisions that well. Then again, I can't write beginning-to-end either--I have to jump around or I would get stuck. That being said, I do run through things from end to end as my final polish, though by then I should be finding mainly cosmetic fixes.

Laurel Amberdine said...

Oh, man... revision. I will attempt to answer seriously and not the comedy version.

Revision is very difficult for me, since each successive rewrite of the same material makes it worse. I do a ton of outlining and worldbuilding first to try to avoid as much as possible.

As I write I revise on the prose-level. When the whole draft is done, I have a bunch of readers who give me comments.

Then I rip the whole thing back into scenes and implement the comments. Last novel I removed two POVs, changed half the middle and made major changes to the ending.

After the structure is good, I copy the original descriptions into the revised draft, read it through myself (usually aloud) and send it to some more readers.

Repeat that as often as necessary, until it is well received. The hardest part is getting a good opening. My readers just aren't picky or hurried enough to emulate a real agent-response. I have discovered rotating different openings for different agent submissions can give me a good idea what works best.

Anonymous said...

After I completed the novel, got many readers, I managed to get an agent to read the partial and give me feedback. Also I read Noah Lukeman's books and he has some interesting exercises.

Conduit said...

This is how my last novel went:

My first drafts tend to be very lean, and I revise as I go, always stepping back and forth. The first draft is usually done very quickly. I have no willpower, so a quick revision is then required to make it draft 1.1.

It then sits a few weeks, and then I go back and revise from start to finish.

It then goes to one or two trusted beta readers (I am incredibly fortunate to have at least two whose input is golden). I wait, hopping from foot-to-foot, impatient for their response.

I read their notes and comments. I wail, gnash teeth, slap my forehead at the stupid mistakes I made. I take particular note of when the different readers' views are in accord.

I then revise again taking their comments on board. Most I will implement. I find I'm not precious about my writing. To use an Irish saying, I know enough to know I know nothing. :)

Then revise again.

Then another beta read.

Then revise again.

I don't think there's ever really a final draft. Every time I revisit it something gets tweaked. I guess it won't be the final draft until (and if) it's on its way to the printer.

On a related note: Good critique is invaluable. There is always a moment of defensiveness, which is only human, when someone tells you your baby isn't perfect. The trick is being able to take that on the chin and use it make the baby better. It'll never be perfect, of course.

Furious D said...

1. Print a copy.

2. Go over copy with a pencil. Making corrections and changes.

3. Go back on computer, make the changes I decided on with the hard copy.

4. Go over it again, make more changes.

5. Go over it again. Make more changes.

6. Repeat steps 4 & 5 at least 20 more times.

7. Achieve literary perfection.

Sometimes I add a step with a critique group of online readers with certain genre projects. Since I normally get a 3/4 positive review, I then try to win over that last 25%.

Other Lisa said...

Generally with wine. I find a good Cabernet works well. Sometimes a nice Spanish red.

Uh, okay. It depends on what kind of revision it is. A lot of them I start from the beginning and plow on through to the end. Some, if there are scenes I know are problems, I tackle those first. Like most things to do with my writing, I don't have a hard and fast method.

I've noticed that things will just kind of nag at me, almost subconsciously, like I'm not exactly aware that they don't work and aren't right but on some level I know it. It's more discovering what I already know sometimes than anything else.

It's also getting out of my own way.

The main thing is having the right kind of focus to do it. It's a mental trick and again, I'm not sure how to explain it. On some drafts I can tell that I've lost the focus and it's a real struggle to get to the end, and I'm pretty sure I haven't solved everything but that's as much as I could do on that pass.

I try to program the problems into my head so when I'm away from the computer I'm thinking about them a lot. I find gym time, walks and showers particularly conducive to problem-solving.

Plus, I'm always gathering information that pertains to my book. You never know what might prove inspirational and useful.

Also, I really think there is a certain rhythm and pace that you have to try to find and follow. I used to write music and I think of it like that at times.

I listen to my critique group, and I listen to my agent. Ultimately I have to decide how to handle, but I've found that even if I don't agree with a proposed solution, that critique generally points to a problem and that it often inspires an oblique solution.

Will Entrekin said...

I feel like I've spent the great majority of my writing life revising. Whether or not it's done any good is up to my readers.

How do I do it? Slowly and methodically and with a scientist's eye. Carefully. Once for POV, once for dramatic tension, once for pacing, once for plot, once for character, once for style. Once for each chapter, by itself, and then once from the very first word until the very last.

I had the honor of studying with a guy named Shelly Lowenkopf, who said that the epiphanic moment comes when you realize that the changes you're making will no longer affect your reader. And Shelly gave me an arseload of great comments on my novel, so I trust him.

Anonymous said...

**If you need it, go for it. Some agents like that that authors take this step because it means the manuscript is probably in better shape. I'm kind of the opinion that you shouldn't necessarily need one.**

I was wondering if you could expand on this, (if you have time).
Why would you not necessarily think that a new author would need an editor? Just curious?

I am making the assumption that the agent will give guidance to their client. The agent knows the business and can advise accordingly.
As new authors we don't have that luxury. Critiques groups are good but they still can’t know the business as well as agents and editors. Unless of course a group member is in the business.
I’ve read all kinds of blogs and have talked to a few published authors, and they all say the same, make sure your work is polished and the best it can be.
Nathan would it not make your job a little easier if the manuscript was already edited?


Nathan Bransford said...


I should start off by saying that different agents have differing opinions on this, some even make sure their authors go through paid editors first. It's just that my own experience is that the authors I take on tend to be talented enough to write the books on their own. They don't need a paid editor to get them there. Sure, their book may still need some editing, and I'm a hands-on agent and may help them with revisions before I submit it, but they've gotten it to the ballpark of where it needs to be on their own.

I'm not ruling out that these editors can serve a valuable purpose, just that it hasn't been my experience that they're necessarily a major difference-maker, and I don't, for instance, feel that the people who say in a query that they have been professionally edited have a leg up over those that don't.

But there are other agents who feel differently, so take that with a grain of salt.

Dawn said...

I usually don't head to my writing group 'til I'm tweaking (with the exception of a couple of amazing editor-friends I have and trust implicitly). This is because a lot of the times my drafts are to figure out what I'm trying to say and getting too much critique can confuse me. I usually need to have a rough idea of the trajectory before I ask for crits. BUT if I'm totally stuck, I may ask my editor-friends for help although usually I just make my poor husband listen to me work it out out loud.

Rewriting is my favorite part of writing. Getting the first draft down is the hardest for me.

no-bull-steve said...

I agree with a lot of what's already been said. One thing that I make sure NOT do do while going into "editing mode," is to expect my writing production to keep pace. I'm sure there are better writers who can edit one minute and then write 5 minutes later. I've found for me that the "editing voice" I need during that process KILLS my creative/writing juices and I need time between them.

Both are necessary but at different times...kinda like exercise and drinking wine.

Tiffany Kenzie said...

All the above... I'm a pantser, and have the occasional habit of changing direction so have to either go back and delete or rewrite...

And I love love love my critique partners, I was lucky to find a group of critters---we all keep each other in line and give it to each other like we need it to be heard, all the bad, good, and downright ugly...

writing is about rewriting, writing is about rewriting, my mantra as I go into draft on one book...

Cam said...

Revising can be a wonderful distraction from writing!!! It's hard not to fall into the trap of constant revisions, so I TRY to limit myself to only revising as I write (sections/chapters in-progress)... Then, hopefully, when the entire first, really-bad draft is finished, I'll sit on it for a few days, then pick back through it bit by bit, starting at the beginning, chopping various parts and constructing entirely new bits. Inevitably, however, there are days when I think of something to change in an earlier chapter and go back and end up revising more than I'd intended. Then I put myself on a no-coffee, no-internet time-out as a punishment.

Sophie W. said...

I have a system. With numbers!

1. Delete crap
2. Hammer out plot
3. Hammer out worldbuilding
4. Rewrite and edit, adding uncrap whenever necessary
5. Reread
6. Hammer out plot/worldbuilding again, this time checking for things I can integrate into the plot
7. Rewrite and edit, adding uncrap whenever necessary
8. Delete crap
9. Final hammering
10. Retype the entire thing from "Once upon a time" to "The End"

It works.

Jackie said...

I personally find exspending the cost of an Editor is a needed cost. They can catch the little imperfections that I can't see after rereading and writing a ton.People can subconsciuosly pick up on mistakes and repeated mistakes can distract a reader. (Nathan there are a ton of mistakes in what I sent you, and breath, I don't believe in resending.) I have been offered an Editor service, and for a small cost, it can redeam a lot.

Tiffany Kenzie said...

dang... no I don't edit my posts... should have been "my mantra as I go into draft four of book one" sheesh.

Linda said...

All of the above, and with a hacksaw.

I start at the beginning and go through systematically (prose prettying/story arc/voices/character consistency/etcetera), though I do take detours to fix big boo-boos I stumble on.

I learned after piddling around for a year with revisions on my first novel that I needed to be brutal. So I excised 50,000 words (yep, it weighed in at birth at a hefty 183k). It was emotionally difficult, especially since in the first draft there is a certain exhilaration at seeing that word count climb. (Now, I get the same feeling when it shrinks).

I workshopped my book for a year with an online class and, at the same time, ran it through with a crit group. I also had two 'beta' readers (also writers) read the workshopped version and the 'now' version.

Revisions are the time-buster in writing. The first draft flowed out in four months, but the revising and rewriting have consumed almost two years.

Querying as we speak, and already had requests for two partials. Guess I'll find out soon whether the revising was sufficient, or whether it'll be round 14 or 15... I forget... Peace, Linda

ManiacScribbler said...

Gah, it depends on what I'm working on as to how much work I really put into something. If it's something that I'm never going to send out, I'll still revise it for myself so that I'm happy with it. I do the same with my submissions, but it is a lot more intensive. As in, I reread it so many times that I'm sick of it, leave it for awhile, and do the process again until the point that I'm sick of it again. Haha. So, rereads all the way through the process. I also usually print off a "first draft" of the work and mark it up on the paper, and then do edits on the computer with occasional print outs.

Jackie said...

First I hand write the first draft. Then I type it, making a few corrections on the computer, print that out, mark-a ton-of corrections with a red pen, retype and print...when all is said and done, a final is generally the 4th copy or more. Yet I still believe in an Editor because I know what my weaknesses are.

leesmiley said...

I usually let it sit for a few weeks while I start another project. Then, I make a couple of passes through and make all the changes I think need to be made.

I also download it onto my PDA and read a few pages while I'm supposed to be working.

From there, I turn it over to a couple of readers including my wife and an attorney. I can't think of any two brands of people designed to be better critics.

Holly said...

Thanks for the great question, Nathan - I just received a wild, thrilling offer of representation and am revising again. Great tips here.

My novel is 45 chapters. I bought a small notebook and saved one page per chapter, then made notes as I gave it a fresh read (after several months of a different project).

Important things started popping out: characters not properly introduced, information in my head but not on the page, places where I tried too hard to show and not tell (so hard that the reader would be left scratching his/her head), missing scenes.

Next step: triage. I transfered the notes into Excel with one row per chapter, headings Status, Chapter, Emotional Arc, Action Items, and Revision Notes.

Under status, I divided the chapters up by color: red for emergency, orange for major work ahead, yellow for a little work, green for virtually perfect. The Excel format made it easy to transfer notes (e.g. move this flashback in Chapter 3), look at the structure as a whole, and figure out what's missing. It's also heartening to see the green chapters shining among the red and orange ones.

So far this method is working wonderfully. Hopefully that will transfer into a fabulous finished product (crossing fingers).

nlnaigle said...

I do a straight read through -- and note inconsistencies, and doublecheck the timeline and plot/character changes. Go through afterwards and correct. Print a clean copy. Have someone else read for inconsistencies. Revise and print clean copy. Review for grammar/sp/structure. Make changes.

When I think it's clean at this point ... I try to get another reader who has never seen the story ... do one more read and let me know if there were any more huh? moments.
That's me :)

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

I despise the process of revision. Jorie Graham advised in a poem: "You must hate one thing/and hate it deep and well." I think I've found my one thing!

I had thought, foolishly enough, that writing a novel would be easier than writing poetry: Didn't Sylvia Plath praise the novel as "roomier" than poetry, you could just put so much more life into it than into a poem?

Well, that sounds like fun, doesn't it? I'll give it a try...

I should be happy, I'm at the tail end of my revision process (halfway through second-to-last chapter), but it's so S-L-O-W a process, I hate it!

You know the map airlines use, to show the routes they fly - all those hyperbolas (?) not sure what they're called, country-to-country - I feel like I've got those in my brain now, in red ink, chapter-to-chapter, word #27 in Chapter 2 to phrase #45 in Chapter 8...which flies back to the scene in Chapter 5 where such-and-such, which then takes off for the 3rd bit of dialogue in Chapter it's a painstaking process of legal pad-to computer-to legal pad etc...maybe I'm comparing a novelist to air traffic controller? No wonder they all went on strike under Reagan!

I hate also that because I do medical transcription REALLY FAST, I have to force myself to write slowly with my revisions, AND SOMETIMES PRINT OUT IN BLOCK LETTERS, otherwise I can't even read my own writing. So in the heat of inspiration, when I would otherwise write really fast! I have to force myself to write really slow! I also have to give myself extra-big margins to write my revisions in, so my LEGIBLE BLOCK LETTERS will fit. Annoying as hell.

And then just keep going til you print up a draft, and you've got the red pen in your hand, hovering above the page as you read...and it doesn't touch down, the red pen stays suspended in the air...yes, that is my definition of writerly success! "Red pen in holding pattern"

Maria Zannini said...

Revising is my favorite part of writing. I make several passes, fleshing out and strengthening as I go, then I do one final edit from back to front to make sure it holds up.

Eben said...

First, thanks for your wonderful blog. I've recently discovered it, and I just want to really express my appreciation that you take the significant amount of time you clearly do to share your wisdom and knowledge of the industry. So, thank you Nathan.

As for revisions, I tend to re-read often and revise when it fits. I find that when I have read something over and over again certain aspects (a word, a phrase, a bit of dialogue) will start to feel like a small thorn or sticker in my shoe. When it irritates me continuously like this, I change it. After having read it over many times the change I need to make becomes clear to me.

All in all, I keep what works and rework what doesn't. Occasionally I throw something completely away, but it's rare. If it struck me when I was writing it...if it flowed from the source of original inspiration there is probably some value in it. But, as a rule of thumb, if it works when I read it then I think it will work for others. Especially because I tend to be my own worst critic.

So, in short I trust my gut. Most of the time I feel extremely satisfied with the end result. And if I don't, I revise again! That's my $.02! Thanks for reading it!

fas said...

With utter lack of sympathy, disgust, the excitement of someone who's discovered what they think is a genuine Picasso in their grandmother’s basement, or the agony of chopping off your own body parts. This last occurs whenever I force myself to cut something altogether or revise it merely for the sake of brevity and the all-blessed word count and not because of quality. My uncovered Picasso moments occur when I go back, finally discover something that was eluding me or works better, change it accordingly, and it is good. As for who critiques, I do, which is where lack of sympathy and disgust come into play. If it makes me wince, it has to go. Call it euthanasia.

Stephanie Zvan said...

First revision is before my critique group sees it. The intent is to polish enough that they can focus on the big things (plot, character) and the tiny things (word choice).

I sit on critique for a while to get perspective, but if there's something big I know I'll change, I'll make the change prospectively. I may not use critique directly, but I always look at areas that solicit comments to see whether they can be improved. Big changes come first, then smaller changes as I work through word by word again. That helps keep me from introducing continuity problems. I'll usually have also made some notes of my own that get incorporated in this round.

Then it's off to the beta readers, preferably target market but also just some really sharp people. While they have it, I spend time thinking about what the story is about. Are there any threads or characters that I've dropped for chapters on end? Are there small things I can do to support my themes? Etc? (Yes, yes, and yes.) These go into a separate document, along with feedback as I get it. I may quiz some beta readers after I get their feedback to make sure I've fixed things I'm worried about. Then I make my last changes and write something else.

Obviously, professional critique would require another round.

Heidi the Hick said...

Nine times.

So far...

I have to print it out to really read it and I feel guilty about the trees.

Just_Me said...

I try to get a first draft set in type before I edit, although the story tends to evolve while I'm writing so their are plot kinks between chapter 1 and chapter 12 that I want to go back and straighten, it always happens.

I do as much editing as I can myself, which is usually very little. In my mind the story is perfect because I know what I mean... so I hand it over to my critique group and let them rip, shred, tear, and abuse the manuscript. I red flag major problems and then I go back for major edits.

Editing usually involves not only killing scenes but characters. I usually wind up fleshing out a minor character and giving them more focus than I originally intended. And so date I have never kept a single opening. In some cases I've discovered that what I thought was the opening chapter was really a middle chapter.

And to date I have not moved past the rewrite stage on a full novel. I'm very close on one of them but not quite happy enough to put it in line edits. My goal is to be in line edits by fall and have something worthy of a query letter by January.

I just have to survive editing first!

Anonymous said...

I revise by doing whatever revisions my publisher wants. You pay me, and I'll revise, no problemo. Now, if I was working on spec, any revisions would be purely up to my sole discreiton--if I like 'em enough, then I'd do 'em.

Taylor K. said...

I write frantically, and then do one or two edits shortly after finishing. Then I leave it alone for about two months, print it out, and read it out loud. This is hard work, but extremely effective. I catch a lot of mistakes this way, and find out what's too boring. I than edit it once more before letting my wife edit it. I then edit it again, and then I...well, my plan is to let others do it, but I honestly haven't gotten that far yet. But that's the plan. Another edit or two would follow (depending on if I believe it's polished enough) then it's of to the wonderful world of agent land. A wonderful place where rhetorical questions have been banned, and it takes only 3 minutes a day to read all queries.

Mary Paddock said...

I go as far as I can by myself on hard copy and on the computer screen. I cut excess verbage, ferret out gratuitous "that"s, repetitive phrases and gestures, and edit scenes that "feel" weak, as many typos as I can see with my own eyes. I then look to beta readers to tell me what I missed.

midnight oil said...

I too started out long hand and let the story flow. Then I put it into the computer, and added words or sentences that made sense to me. I’m still not too worried about my grammar usage at this point.
Then I go back and read it to see if it flows. Does it make sense? I make minor adjustments here or delete a chapter, whatever it takes to maintain the continuity of the original hand written MS storyline.
Then I start weeding through the grammar, passive voice ect…
I don’t have a critique group since I don’t know anyone out here in the bay area but at this point I would let them read and see what they think. I’ll make adjustments if they make sense.

Odo fitz Gilbert said...

I am currently practicing "revision avoidance" by starting a new story, but I did revise a short story to the point where I think I've done the best I can on it with the form I chose. Unfortunately, I look at it and say to myself "This is the best I can do with this story in this form; it isn't salable." Luckily it really isn't needed for the novel that follows it, so now I have to rewrite that, and I am resisting.

If I had trusted readers I would so use the heck out of them, but so far I don't have any. (I have some people that I use with my poetry, but asking them to read 150K words is different.)

Some interesting hints and tips in the responses. Well done, Nathan.

V L Smith said...

I've heard you aren't supposed to edit as you write, but I can't help it, I do. Things come to me in my sleep, while I work, shop, whatever, and I have to make changes.

Once the project is finished, I review it completely for more changes.


Then I have a spreadsheet of words I run a find for - words that creep in that shouldn't be there or should be limited (am, are, be, been, etc.) plus words I have a tendency to overuse. I try eliminate all these as I write but they can sneak up on you.

Spellcheck again because running the always results in rewrites and tightening.

Send off to the critique group. Make the accepted changes.


Run the find again.

Then I think I am finished. Whew!

Christine said...

How do I not revise? I have been editing my novel for at least a year.

First to find errors and fix awkward spots, then to correct POV, now to get rid of words because I have too many...

Yes, everytime I read it I find more to change.

At first I couldn't imagine getting rid of any of it - it was so close to my heart, but after letting it rest, now I see parts and say, ooh yuck, what was I thinking?

Thanks for the great blog!

Wilfred the Author said...

I've done it all in one novel.

Normally, I start my writing day by re-reading the last chpater or section of what I wrote; then move forward. During the re-read, I make notes on clunky passages, typos, etc.

Since I travel a lot for my day job, I use my airplane time to read the unfinished work from the beginning and revise. A lot of the planes I travel on lately are the small regional jets and getting out my laptop to write is not an option.

Near the end of the novel, I skip the re-reads. That way its fresher for me when I do my first big re-write. It sounds like a mess, but I have it down and it seems to work for me.

Parker Haynes said...

Hmmm…lots of interesting approaches to this necessity some love and others love to hate, so I’ll weigh in.

My goal on the first draft is 1000 words a day, usually rereading (aloud!) the previous day’s work and making minor changes and corrections. If nothing else, this review helps set the stage (or my mood) for where I pick up. As the chapters build I do find inconsistencies that demand fixing, so I backtrack and fix. When I reach “The End” I make the time to read the complete manuscript, also aloud. By this time, I know the characters far better than at the beginning so this is my time to go back and add or subtract, build any missing depth of character for the reader.

Now it’s time to revert to my fifteen years fabricating Southern style silver jewelry. I grind off the rough edges, sand off the tool marks, burnish away blemishes, then polish to a high sheen and congratulate myself, hoping a buyer will find it as attractive as I do.

Next I color it up with markers as per Margie Lawson’s excellent EDITS system. (margielawson [dot] com). I find her methods valuable for locating problems by color coding emotion, dialog, internalization, tension, and setting. This leads to another round of revisions.

When I can identify no further reasonable improvements, it goes to a professional editor for manuscript evaluation, giving me a few weeks to get it out of my head. When it comes back all marked up with red pen, accompanied by pages of feedback, it’s time to jump in again, preferably with an ample shot of Irish in my black coffee to ease the pain.

Clench my teeth, revise fro the umpteenth time, polish again.

Anonymous said...

I work in successive drafts.

First draft: just write. By the end of the draft, I usually have a good idea of what the story is. It may or may not be anything like what I've actually written.

Second draft: do the rough work of getting the necessary story elements in place. Add scenes, delete scenes, cut and paste chunks of text that need to be moved.

Third draft: start at the beginning and smooth out the text. Remove duplications, inconsistencies, and stuff that's no longer relevant. Add anything else that needs to go in.

Fourth draft: Fine tune the story. Fix tone, style, colour and shading.

Fifth draft: Line edit.

Sixth draft: Copy edit.

Then I do a final proof-reading, and the job is done.


Anonymous said...

Does anyone get the feeling that Nathan, bless him, tosses out these You Tell Me topics so that we will spend the day forming our answers and reading the other 70-150 comments, so we will be out of his hair and he can get some work done?

It's sort of like the equivilent of a mother with a toddler turning on a Disney movie so she can balance her checkbook or make dinner in peace?

Not that I mind, I'm just saying... I'm onto you, Bransford, I'm on to you...

jerzegurl said...

My laptop is now part of my body. It is the only way I write. My words leave my brain and travel to my fingertips where they compose a story while they dance. I write my entire story out first.

After I write the story, I go back and revise. My current WIP has 2 huge files on my hard drive full of revisions. I add and subject all the time.

My one problem is reading the work on the computer screen.

My writer's group meets twice a month and my work gets reviewed then. I trust most of their input, except in cases where they don't don't what the character is going to do in the future.

For example they may suggest that something be revealed about a character in the chapter they are reading and it is revealed at the start of the next chapter.

I hate it when people tell me they don't revise. I revise more than I write.. or so it seems.

Erik said...

Thanks everyone, that was interesting. I can see that a lot of people do what I do, which is "by any means necessary". Cut paragraphs, tweak, polish, slice and dice - it's all good for me.

I usually revise constantly, which means that the first parts of a story / book are heavily edited and the last parts less so. I think that usually shows, so I have to get better at it.

Also, no one sees a thing until I think it's at least readable.

Laura in Aurora said...

This is always my greatest struggle.

I tend to be better at rewriting when I see the whole thing printed out.

Then, I will literally start retyping, because EVERYTHING gets better...even whole paragraphs that I thought were brilliant before can be tightened up for sharper dialogue, expanded for a better sense of scene or frankly, I just forgot about an unnecessary character or plot tick.

But it's such a behemoth of a project, that I tend to NOT be rewriting unless I'm holed up in a hotel room for work for a week. :-)

abc said...

I'm only guessing here, since I'm still on first draft, but I'd think you have to get away from it for a little bit. Watch some bad movies. Drink some wine. Do something inspiring (watch a good movie? Watch The Wire?) and then get back to the little shit. Soft eyes?

Eric said...

I use a keyboard.

Aimless Writer said...

We shall revise until we have a sellable product.
First draft. Rewrite.
Read it all out loud so we can hear the flow. Rewrite.
Take to critique group. Rewrite.
Probably read aloud again before sending out for the final rewrite.
However advice only taken from those in the business. Other published authors (my critique group), agents, editors, etc.
Agents are gatekeeper gods
Editors super gods

Anonymous said...

I don't think I ever "vise" -- only "re"-vise!

I use the (screwy?) screwdriver-method whereby I go back a bit before writing more, tweaking and editing along the way as I get back into the mode and then continue. Sometimes this involves going back a chapter or two, or all the way to the beginning -- touching-up and adding/deleting, killing darlings and hacking with impunity. That's BEFORE my critique partners ever get their hands on it.

And then, of course, the whole thing starts again!

I have a firmly-held rule of thumb that no manuscript goes forth into the world that hasn't been thoroughly ripped apart by 5 people who are in no way related to me, either by blood or friendship, first.

-- duskydawn

Kate said...

All of the above. First of all, at the start of each day's writing session I reread what I wrote the day before, and invariably do a little revision. Beyond that, I generally wait till I've finished the whole first draft--unless I get so stuck that I have to revise in order to keep going. Then I let the draft sit for a while, go back and revise the whole thing. Then I let some people read it, and revise with their comments in mind. That last step might be repeated any number of times before I decide the piece is ready to see the world. I also do separate passes through looking for different things--language, pacing, tension, etc. Inevitably whole scenes, sometimes whole chapters, will get the ax at some point in the process. I kill a lot of darlings.

Demon Hunter said...

I trust my betas, who are mostly writers themselves. I believe in several rewrites until the book is polished. I've thrown out thousands of words and went back in and added more. It has to be done.

It's probably best to use two sets of betas. The first after you've written and rewritten. And just when you think it's good, give it to the next set of betas who will eviscerate it and then you whip it into shape.

Stew said...

I write the first draft, print it, red-line it, make notes for scenes to rewrite completely, notes for scenes to add.
Take that document with me back to the computer and start with a blank document. I make a lot of spur of the moment changes to language and sentence structure in re-typing the whole thing, adding scenes as I go if needed.
Red-line it again for grammatical mistakes. Take that document back to the computer and make those changes in the existing draft two.
Send to betas - consider their comments and make appropriate changes.

April said...

I love to revise! I put my manuscript aside for a few weeks to a month. Then I start at the beginning and track my changes. Then I go back through and evaluate my changes and either accept them or change them again. Then I go back through just to read it. Then I go through to make sure the chapters are where I want them. Somewhere in the middle, I may hand it over to a few betas to get their oppinions.

The hardest thing for me is knowing when to stop and trust that it's the best I can make it.

All this coming from an unagented/unpublished author. :-) so it's very possibly my methods are useless! haha

Anonymous said...

Draft 1 - Print out - red flair - read aloud - red flair - edit - print out -etc, repeat several times. Save each version in separate files. Lots of red flairs, printer ink & tons of paper. A tree hugger's nightmare - but then, we also drive big ass SUVs that have V8 engines and get 14 miles to the gallon - 7mpg when we pull the big ass boat. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

The invention of the desktop computer and the word processor completely deserves honorable mention, if not complete credit for 99.99% of ALL the editing I have been able to accomplish.

Man, I just wasn't that good of a typer!

Now a days, I reread what I wrote the day before and then begin writing. As I write, I edit, improvise, invent, change things as I write.
A missing element, chapters back, can occur to me and presto, I can go to it!
I am completely in love with spellcheck as a saving grace.

However, I just cannot SEE my own typos on a computer screen.
At some point, I have to print it out and look at it on paper. Usually at least three times.

authorista said...

Nathan, for those of us debut authors who are just partnering or about to partner with agents, what would you say are the top agent-author newbie mistakes to avoid?

bookfraud said...

the easiest question posed to me in months. how do i revise? compulsively, endlessly, repeatedly.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Nathan for asking. Revising my almost 74K novel, at least for me, is akin to plucking unwanted, excessive, body hair. (Do you feel the pain?) After completing the first draft, I went straight into the second, believing the work needed only "minor" revision. (Sigh)! Alas, the poor manuscript necessitated a TOTAL and major overhaul. Arrrgghh- Kill your darlings! Arrgghh!

Reading it aloud to myself (and my dog that now sleeps much better), begged the question,- What drugs was I taking when I wrote the first draft? (The answer, of course, is none.)

Still, I take comfort in knowing, that in the end, my novel (or novella) should turn out all the better-and didn't you mention that shorter novels are now in?

Anonymous said...

During the first draft, I always start the day's wtiting by re-reading what I wrote the previous day and making any edits that come to mind. This tightens up the story as I write it, so in effect its already been editied once by the time the first draft is finished, and it gets me back into the story for the day's new writing.

I usually keep a separate Notes file for major revision possibilities for the 2nd draft I'm not yet sure about during the first draft.

Speak Coffee said...

On good days: with a workshop.

On bad days: with two hands and a flashlight.

Christi said...

This is exactly what I wanted to read about today! Thanks.

I'm revising my first finished novel right now. I started out clumsily; revising as I went. That was a mistake for me because it took over 2 years to get past 24,000 words. I finally sat down and finished the novel adding 40,000 words to it in one month. I got a lot down on paper and it really helped my brain start to function in the fiction realm of writing.

So how am I going about it?

1. I let the novel sit for a week.

2. Researched how others revise a novel

3. I read it from start to finish making notes (in a separate notebook about scenes, character inconsistencies etc) and small edits.

4. Now I am hands-on editing and revising. I’ve taken out a lot and added or enhanced parts of my novel that needed work. I never delete, just cut and paste the parts I don’t want to use and put it in another document.

5. After I finish my first revision I’m going to hand it over to 2-3 people for their editing expertise and then I’ll revise one last time before I send it out.

My goal is to send it to at least 30 agents, 10 publishing houses directly, and if no one bites within a year, I’ll probably self-publish.

I’ve already started another manuscript, a novella, and hope to have that published soon after my novel. Or maybe it will happen the other way around.

cyn said...

1st : just going through myself once and adding / deleting needed scenes/ prose. checking for grammar, dialogue, etc.

2nd : using one crit group's notes and comments. i don't incorporate all advice, only what makes sense to me and my story.

3rd : using second crit group's advice.

4th : another revision for flow and consistency.

5th : final revision by reading aloud.

Anonymous said...

One thing I've started doing that hasn't been mentioned already is running my text, usually a chapter at a time, through a word counter that gives me a list of most frequently used words, with numbers. (A recent chapter yielded 28 uses of the word 'back.') Then I go back (See? Impossible to avoid!)and make changes to the ones I have used too often. As David Long (writing teacher and writer) says, never repeat words except on purpose.

From having my writing looked at by many people, other writers, my husband (world's harshest critic) and teachers, I know what my bad habits are. With that in mind, in addition to reading for sense and grammaar, texture and flow, I look for examples of my own foibles. For example, I'm a 'just' queen, so I go through and get rid of the word 'just' in my dialogue.

gidget-ca said...

I write young adult fiction so there are no 'unnecessary' scenes; everything is critical to the plot. That said, my current novel is over a hundred thousand words.

The first draft was horrible, written in a plain-text editor (on purpose) so that I did not fall victim to the thesaurus effect.

For the second, I edited each chapter in Word, one paragraph at a time; I don't believe in rewriting more than a single paragraph, it is that 'flow' of initial creativity that I think always needs to remain.

Once each chapter is revised, I print it, and my significant other reads it aloud; then, I edit the paper copy, and enter those changes into the computer.

The second draft completed, the entire manuscript is printed two times, and one copy each is read by myself and my partner; we make our notes (both small and large,) and then all of that is revised in Word.

This final draft is then printed and sent to several people, who then make their own notes and suggestions; they are then, hopefully, returned to me. I employ their ideas to my own personal taste, and then the novel is declared finished; as I am obsessive-compulsive revision could go on forever if not terminated with prejudice.

Nikki Duncan said...

All of the above. I write the story to get it out, work with my critique partners/plotting partners, listen to their opinions, advice, and feedback, and then start at the beginning either changing, or slicing scenes and adding new stuff that needs to be there.

I've gotten to where I can get the story written andtightened in 2 sweeps. The third sweep is where I check for missed typos and continuity things like hair color, the spelling of names, do they have three hands all of a sudden. That fun stuff.

Simon Haynes said...

Print the whole draft, apply red pen, enter changes in the computer. Repeat at least 20-25 times, until I can read it without picking the pen up.

Then I submit it to my editor for comments, and after that I start the real revisions.

As for wasting paper, one government department kills more trees changing their letterhead on a whim than all of us writers put together will use in our lifetimes.

southernbelfry said...

What did we do before computers? It's not that difficult for me as I am not in love with every word I write. I can toss a paragraph, a page, a word, a chapter. But rearranging chapters like I'm doing now is causing me to re-think my career choice.

My mother called herself a "pre-writer", not a re-writer. She didn't use a computer and would think and think and think, and write the story in her head until she could sit down and dash it off like Mozart with few revisions.

Anonymous said...

I read it out loud. It is humbling, mortifying and enlightening all at once. You realize the faults in your dialogue, the gaps in your descriptions, the absence of tone. Or you get really excited that you nailed the moment.

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