I finished a new first draft a month ago. My beautiful baby novel went through the wash once, and then I sent it off to school (aka, my betas). It came back to me marked up with all of the writing tics I forgot I had and some that I
must have just added to my repertoire. My baby novel is growing up, and I need to pretty it up before I let it go to prom ( I don’t know if my agent thinks of herself that way, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯).
I’d love to hear about your revision processes, and since sharing is caring, I’ll go first:
- I never send out anything from a draft until I finish the whole thing first. I need to get from A-Z before I realize that I skipped letters J-T and need to tidy it up.
- After I finish my first draft, I reread to make sure the pacing works and there aren’t any obvious plot holes.
- I print the manuscript— the whole dang thing– and hand it off to a small round of betas. These folks let me know the obvious bone-headed things I did, point out a few grammar things, and give an overall reaction. Does it read like a book? Did you get bored? Where? If you’re working with betas for the first time, I find it helps to give them a set of questions or concerns to read for. If someone just asks me, “What did you think?” I don’t know what to zoom in on.
- I take the paper copies, marked up with their notes, and reread the manuscript. Often I’ll find places to cut or deepen, and I interact with their notes. I start to find my “most-used” words and phrases and places where the voice feels off for a particular character.
- Then I take a little break. I read, I actually go to the gym, I grade papers (blerg). I took a week off this time, and probably should have taken more, but I missed my characters. By the time that I got back to the page, I had at least a little distance and could start to cut my darlings (sorry metaphor about melting ice cream!) At this step, I start to check for sentence and word variety. I make a Wordle to come up with my most-used words. I check for passive voice, or lazy metaphors (too many ‘likes’
makes me feel like a Valley Girl, even if a poetic one).
- Finally, I put on my grown-up-writer-pants and send the newly polished manuscript, which I feel pretty good about at this point, to my nails-tough betas/CPs. They often give me line-level comments with lots of question marks and “Did you notice that you…”s in them.
- I apply critiques where I see fit, put the MS aside, and then forward the whole thing to my Kindle for a final read-through on a platform that looks like a book. Reading the MS like I would something for pleasure changes my perspective in a way that helps for my final read through.
I’m still working through the final beta-reads and tweaks for this manuscript, but hopefully by the time it leaves my inbox it will be less awkward than my prom pictures, like this one where I inexplicably have a lightsaber.
What steps work for you when you revise?