Well, my novel's first draft is finished (hard to believe), and it is now time to begin planning the revisions. So, I thought I would explain what it is exactly that I do in this momentous task before me. I have a ten-step process, that, though sometimes may seem to be grueling, is very effective and very rewarding. Here are those 10 Steps.
Step 1: Convert Your Rough Draft To a PDF File. Most word processors should do this for you. Convert your novel to PDF at every draft stage and back it up. (This is for future reference, and it is good to have extras, just in case you hate everything you do to your novel in the revision stages.)
Step 2: Take Time Off. I covered a little of this in my last post, so I will keep this brief. But I always take time off from my novel once a draft is done. Usually about a month. That way, when I come back at it, it will no longer be so romanticized in my mind, and I can come to it with fresh eyes and new perspective. Take some time off. (But keep writing! Just write other things. Don't lose this momentum you have created for yourself this month-- keep at it!)
Step 3: The Initial Read-Through. The initial read-through is where I just sweep through it, giving the whole novel the once over and assess the damage. Along the way I fix blatant misspellings and grammatical errors, as well. I'll chew on it over night, thinking about what is structurally wrong, where the plot-holes are, and where I was unclear in my writing. Convert this much to PDF and back it up.
Then I get to work with...
Step 4: The Highlighters. Whether it is using a hard copy of my novel and real highlighters, or simply using the virtual highlighters on your computer, I always break out the highlighters. I use lots of colors for this stage. This is where your novel becomes a work of art (get it?). I go through and mark everything a different color. For instance, dialogue will be yellow, and back story pink; descriptions green and exposition purple. (The color coding doesn't matter, so long as it is consistent throughout the novel, and you know what every color stands for.) This allows me to see very easily and clearly where there is too much of something in one place and not enough in another. Now I go through and try to sprinkle everything more evenly throughout. There may still be some blocks of color, but you should have made your pages look more like a rainbow at this point. Covert your colored pages to PDF, back it up.
And move on to...
Step 5: Concision Check Point. This is the part that always gives me the most trouble. Ever heard the phrase "Kill Your Darlings"? Well, this is where you get to do that. "In other words, you get to get rid of your most precious and self-indulgent passages for the greater good of your literary work." (To read more on this, click here.) This is where you cut out all of those scenes you really liked in the first several drafts, but that don't really further your story along. And not just scenes; conversations, sequences, even extra unnecessary words. All those words you added that you really did not need? Well, this is where they get cut. Every. One. Of. Them. Be merciless. Be cruel. Be concise. Then convert it to PDF, back it up, and that will lead you into...
Step 6: Paving Over Plot Holes. You may or may not need this step. But this is where you go back and fix all of those things that don't make sense. This is where you make that random chain of events all link together to weave one great story. Things are added here. Things are taken away. This is where you can even go so far as to add new characters and subplots, if your story calls for it. Get those creative juices flowing, and get to work! Then convert it to PDF and back it up.
Step 7: The Beta Readers. You have checked spelling. You have fixed sagging middles. You have paved over plot holes. You have read your manuscript about a million times. Now is the time for others to read your book... and critique it. This part is scary, I'll admit; making your work vulnerable to another's critical eye, letting someone else read what has for so long been hidden on your hard drive, and then talking about it? But this part is where some of the bast changes will happen. Print out ten copies of your book, and give it to ten people (preferably not in your family) to read over and critique. Give them one month (in that time, work on something else, and take time to read. A lot.) Expect to only receive five copies back. (People are busy, and they do not always have time to read over your book and mark it up. Expect this, and plan for it. If all ten respond, great! If not, well, you were warned.) I might even go so far as to provide red pens that they can mark up the book with, and questionnaires at the end of my manuscript, with questions like: How clear was the story? What scene/image sticks best in your mind, having read the whole book? What suggestions do you have for the plot? What would have made it better in your estimation? (Those questions are just examples; go ahead and use your own questions.) Now, before you go and do this, hear me out. Everyone will have their own opinions. There will be differing opinions on different things. You do not have to worry about these. If everyone says something completely different, you don't really need to worry about any of them (unless it's grammar or spelling or something like that) unless you want to. However, if there are two or more people who say the same or very similar things, those things you might want to consider and work on. After that, covert it to PDF, back it up, and move on.
Step 8: Step Away For A Moment. Take a breather. Very brief, only a few days at the very longest, but still, relax. Work on something else (rules and regulations for Step 2 apply here, too, but in a much shorter time span.
Let what your readers have said sink in, let it simmer and percolate, and then?
Step 9: Attack Full Force. This is where you open a new, blank document, and you retype the entire book. This part is the most time consuming, but also the most rewarding. You do not have to retype everything word for word. Make it better. This is, after all, a revision. So revise. And then, when you have finished this step, convert it to PDF and back it up.
Step 10: Repeat As Needed. At this point, your novel may be done. But it may not. This is where you go back to step one, and you repeat each step as needed. You might not have to do this; you might have to a couple more times. But after you have done all of these steps and you are satisfied (for the most part), your job is over. You have done it. You have written a completed manuscript. Now is the time to send off your novel to editors and agents and publishing houses. And smile; you have earned it.
So, this is what I do for revisions. It can, in some ways, be much more challenging than the initial write-it-down process, but this is what takes that lump of clay and turns it into a beautiful and finely crafted chalice. This may not work 100% for you, but most of these are eclectic tips and tricks I have learned over the years, and I would encourage you, if you plan on revising your novel, to try to follow it, with only small changes to the plan laid out before you. Also, I would be interested in hearing what it is you do differently. Let me know in the comments!And, as always, Happy Writing!