Wednesday, August 11

Where Was I Going Again? The Benefits of Re-Reading During Revisions

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

If you're like me, things change as you write. New ideas enter your head and your draft turns out differently than your outline, even if it mostly follows it. You change motivations that fit better with an idea you have later, but there are scenes in the back half that still reflect the motivations you created in the first half.

Or, you plan to do X and then change your mind when you get there, but all the groundwork for X is still in the text.

Doing a fresh read really helps spot these story shifts and also reminds you of the story arc and where you've been. Knowing where you've been makes it a lot easier to figure out where you're going, and how you need to get there.

Another advantage, is that you usually continue to tweak and catch little things as you read, so by the time you're done with the draft, it might only need minor edits to finish off. It's like doing multiple drafts without actually doing multiple drafts.

It's also one possible way to get you jazzed about a project you might be losing enthusiasm for. Even books we love can get tedious when we've been working on them a while. Going back and enjoying them as a reader allows you to enjoy the story again.

Some days, the best editing can be done when you mix up the pages and read things out of order. But others, starting from page one and watching the story unfold as intended can remind you what you've done, so you know the best way to end that journey.

Looking for tips on revising your novel? Check out my book Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, a series of self-guided workshops that help you revise your manuscript into a finished novel. Still working on your idea? Then try my just-released Planning Your Novel Workbook

A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The Shifter, was chosen for the 2014 list of "Ten Books All Young Georgians Should Read" from the Georgia Center for the Book. It was also shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, and The Truman Award in 2011.

Janice is also the founder of Fiction University, a site dedicated to helping writers improve their craft. Her popular Foundations of Fiction series includes Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a self-guided workshop for planning or revising a novel, the companion Planning Your Novel Workbook, Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, and the upcoming Understanding Show Don't Tell (And Really Getting It).  

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  1. What a great idea to read sections out of order. What you need is a fresh eye and that's probably a good way to refresh your own.

    BTW, I enjoyed yesterday's Golden Oldie. I'm glad you took my suggestion!

  2. Me too, thanks again :) A writer friend of mine shuffles her pages and edits them totally out of order. (I think it was agent Donald Maass who suggested that in one of his books). She swears by it. Says she catches things she never would have seen reading it right through. That should be next week's RWW!

  3. That out-of-order thing sounds good for copyedits.

    I'd love to try it, except I'm still working on content edits. :-)

    At any rate, I love rereading what I've already written every so often to make sure it's flowing right. It can help writer's block, too, when you have scenes or details that demand followup.

  4. It's also one possible way to get you jazzed about a project you might be losing enthusiasm for.


    Last week I had to polish up my MS for a full request (Yay!) and, though I was editing and not simply reading, I did have a chance to experience a large chunk of it in a short amount of time, more like a reader might. I was pleasantly surprised!