Road to Revision

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Last week, I gave you a peek into where the setting for Strong Fort Spathí originated and how it evolved into what it is today.

This week, I’d like to give you a little glimpse into how a whole book travels from first draft through revision, at least for me.

Revision, like most writing related things, is both universal and intensely personal.  There are common steps, common tools, and common practices, but each author mixes and matches the steps, tools, and practices that work best for them in order to get their work done.

I’ve been working on the second book in the Swords & Shields Series since I finished the first draft of the first book, Strong Fort Spathí.  When I’m working on a larger set of pieces, like a series of novels, I tend to continue the drafting of the series while I start revisions on a given book.

Strong Fort Spathí had many iterations, and continued to receive some copy-editing even after eBook publication.  (I think I’ve finally caught all the typos, or close to it.)

Book 2, which doesn’t have a finalized title of its own yet, is currently in version 14.0.  I find version numbers very useful for file nam there start revisions on a given book.  first draft of the first book, Strong Foring and other such tracking so I can check back on an earlier draft if needed and never completely lose any cut scenes or chapters.

My revision process starts with giving the draft a break.  I take several weeks to a month, sometimes longer, without looking at the work in progress at all.  This helps clear out of my head what I thought I wrote, so when I come back, I’m only left with what I actually put on the page.

Step two usually involves a re-read, straight through, with little or no editing.  I just make notes, check that my time-line or plot breakdown is accurate compared to the story, and gather any details I think I might need for reference later.

Step three is when I really get down to the real work.  I begin to write scenes I noted were missing, rewriting scenes that need it, and possibly reorder some scenes or chapters.  This step takes the most time, since there are a lot of different things I’m trying to accomplish.

Step four requires help.  This is when I look for beta readers to give me some initial feedback.  Beta readers are invaluable in my personal opinion.  Without these early draft readers, I would never be able to see a lot of the issues a story has.  I’m so immersed in my world that I forget the reader doesn’t know something, or I forgot to show an important scene.  Beta readers keep me honest.

Step five is to repeat steps three and four as many times as it takes.

Some stories only take a couple repetitions.  Some books might need eight or nine runs through the revision sequencing.

Step six is one more beginning to end reading to see if I’ve missed anything important plot- or character-wise.

Step seven is copy editing.  I do a few passes myself first, usually reading the whole manuscript out loud a couple times in the process.  Then I get someone else, either a very talented friend or a professional, to do another pass to make sure it’s all as close to perfect as I can make it.

As for Book 2, it is currently on its third run through step three.  I’m gathering beta readers now so I’ll have someone to send it to when I’m done.  I’m adding some scenes and chapters to what’s already there.  I’m also overhauling several chapters, and I’ve even cut a whole chapter since the last round of beta readers.

To give you an idea of how far it’s already come, the original ‘first draft’ I started with was 300,000 words long and couldn’t possibly fit into a single book.  I had to do a whole round of editing from steps one through four just to figure out how best to break it into more than one book.

The current draft—notes, mistakes, story, and all—is currently about 55,000 words.  It’s going to grow a bit during this step three, but who knows what might happen after another round of step four and more beta readers.

For any readers out there, is there something more you’d like to know about my revision process?  I’m always curious to hear what interests people, and happy to talk shop.

For fellow writers, are there other steps you take or tricks you use when you’re revising?  I’d love to hear from you.

*Title Photo Is a Stock Image, Not my Work

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3 thoughts on “Road to Revision

  1. I don’t do the simple re-read. I tend to just dive right in, fix all I can, enter it into the computer, and wait a month before I do it all over again. Usually it takes between two and five of those to make me happy, more as time goes on. It’s a complicated process, and we all have our ways of approaching it. Yours sounds pretty solid and well-practiced. Alas, writing requires becoming a good editor of your own work–whether you enjoy it or not!

    • Self-editing is definitely a required skill for writers, especially these days. I have to leave the draft sitting fallow for too long not to do the re-read. I forget what’s in there, which is sort of the point, so at least it’s working.
      I’ve noticed that the more novels I revise the more revisions I seem to need to feel that it’s done enough to be marketable. I’d like to think that’s a sign that I’m getting better and catching more issues rather than nerves or perfectionism.
      Thanks for the read and the comment. Good luck with whatever projects you’re currently working on.

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