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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

On Revision

This topic is a suggestion from Twitter. If you have anything you'd like me to blog about, feel free to leave a comment.

Revision is a vital part of the writing process, but it's also overwhelming to look at this 100,000 word (And in my case frequently well over 100,000 words) work and try to figure out where to start. With every single book I finish, it's as if I have to relearn how to revise my work.

The first thing I do is reread the entire story without touching anything. I have a pad of paper beside me and I make notes on what I want to fix. Depending on the project, I might print it out and read on paper, but I don't always do this. If I do have it in hard copy, I'll make small notes on the page. And by small, I mean nitpicky stuff like awkward sentences, repeated words, etc. Anything beyond this goes on the notepad.

After I finish the read through, I might need time to think about how I'm going to fix something. If it's big enough, I'll run it past a few writing buddies to get their opinions and to find out if I'm not seeing something in my solution that will cause trouble later.

Getting to the actual revisions. Daunting. Most of my books are well over 100,000 words--some more than others. Printed out, we're talking about darn close to a ream of paper and looking at it, I can't help but panic about how I'm ever going to fix something this size. That's when I start playing mind games with myself. I think of it in scenes.

That's not to say there isn't a change that will affect the entire book or at least a large portion of it. When I revised Ravyn's Flight I had to adjust more than half the book to foreshadow my hero's big secret, something he didn't bother to tell me until a couple of days before he revealed all to the heroine. This was a big enough event in his life that it would color everything for him in the situation Damon and Ravyn were in.

Or when I revised The Power of Two and had to adjust the entire book to accommodate the heroine's younger age. In the original draft, she wasn't 21.

So yes, big changes, but I still thought about it in this way: What do I have to do in this scene to fix it?

The initial, bit overhaul revision run goes in fits and starts. I will back up and re-edit a scene if something occurs to me later. This is where the hard lifting gets done, and when it's finished, I don't want to go back to it again.

Round two revisions are for medium revisions. If I have sentences or paragraphs that need to be cut or rearranged, this is when it happens. This is also when I'll hit awkward sentences that weren't addressed in the big overhaul. Again, I think only in scenes. Anything bigger than that make my brain lock up and protest: "hey, this is too huge!"

By the time I do my third (and probably final revision run), there should be nothing but tweaking and fine tuning. Smoothing things out, replacing duplicate words, fine tuning transitions. This is actually my favorite part of revising.

Then the story is out the door and this whole cycle--including the initial panic--is repeated when I get the editorial revision letter.