Tuesday, February 09, 2021

6 Steps to Fast and Easy Revision

By Laurence MacNaughton, @LMacNaughton

Part of The How They Do It Series

JH: The first draft is only the first step of a novel, and the revision is where the fun (and work) really begins. Laurence MacNaughton shares an easy plan for revising your novel.

Some writers love to revise their work. At least I assume so. I've never met any. That's why I try so hard to make the entire revision process as painless and quick as possible. Let's face it, the process of revising an entire novel can seem impossibly daunting. And while it is a lot of work, it's not impossible.

Here's how to break it down into manageable chunks so you can get your revisions done faster and easier than ever before.

1. Before you start changing anything, decide which changes you're going to make.

Don't just dive in and start making changes one by one, or you could end up getting lost in the details. Instead, take a step back and evaluate the feedback you've received so far.

Gather together all of the notes you've received, whether it's from your editor, your agent, or your critique group.

Read through all of those notes and do a gut check. Which changes do you agree with? Which ones are completely off-base? Which ones are you unsure about?

If any of this starts to spark some ideas, write down your thoughts. Ask questions, and brainstorm the answers.

At this stage, we're mostly talking about the big things, like changes to the whole story or individual character arcs, that sort of thing. You can leave aside the little line edits for grammar and so on until later.

Decide which changes you are going to make, which ones you may or may not make, and which ones you're going to ignore.

(Here’s more on Revision Prep: Create a Revision Plan)

2. Re-outline your book.

If you want to revise your book quickly, you'll need an outline.

It doesn't matter whether you used an outline to write the book. At this point, that original outline is out of date, because things have no doubt changed over the course of writing the story. So if you already have an outline, throw it out and start over.

Skim through your existing manuscript and make a list of your chapters. If they don't already have titles, give them short descriptive ones, such as Car Chase or Investigate the Crime Scene. Don't worry about using clunky titles. No one will ever see these except you.

Then, for each chapter, encapsulate what happens in one or two sentences. For example: "Dru and Greyson chase the speed demons across the fiery bridge, and the crystal explodes." Again, don't worry about getting it perfect. This is for your eyes only.

This imperfect outline will help you keep track of what you're changing, and where those changes go. Trust me, it will be super handy throughout the rest of this process.

(Here’s more on How to Create an Editorial Map)

3. Create a master list of changes.

The most helpful thing you can do at this point is to put together a master list of changes. This master list has two sections: big picture changes, and chapter changes.

The big picture changes are exactly what they sound like. Big things, like removing a character or changing from first person to third person. These are changes that will happen over the course of multiple chapters, or maybe the entire book.

Chapter changes go under each specific chapter in your outline. If you see something that needs to go under several chapters, copy and paste it under each one.

Essentially, what you're creating is a handy to-do list for your revisions.

(Here’s more on Organizing the Chaos: 5 Revision Tips for Pantsers)

4. Start with the big picture and work down from there.

Now you're ready to begin making actual changes to the manuscript. Start with the big changes, such as cutting extraneous subplots or combining two characters in one.

Write notes to yourself as you find new things that need to be changed. Many of these notes will actually end up going under specific chapters. For example, you might write a big reveal and realize that you need to plant a clue earlier in the book. This is where you'll thank yourself for creating that handy new outline.

(Here’s more on How to Edit a Novel Without Feeling Overwhelmed)

5. Rewrite your book chapter by chapter.

Once you're done with the big changes, start at the first page of your book and make all the revisions you need to, including all of those little grammar changes and line edits.

Go one chapter at a time. Work your way through the book at your own pace.

You'll probably find that you're changing even more things than you expected as you go along. Be sure to write yourself copious notes, either in the big picture section or in individual chapters.

Keep going, chapter by chapter, until you reach the end.

(Here’s more on First Look at a First Draft: How to Revise Your Manuscript)

6. Polish and submit.

If you aren't up against a deadline, then see if you can set your book aside for a few weeks after you finish the rewrite. Come back one last time with fresh eyes and give it a light polish. See if you forgot anything, or if there's anything else you want to change.

(Here’s more on The Spit Shine: Things to Check Before You Submit (or Publish) Your Novel)

Finally, you're done! Now you can send your book out into the world again, confident that you've done your absolute best, and it's a better book because of it.

Do you have questions about revising your fiction?

Leave a comment below or connect with me on my author website at www.laurencemacnaughton.com.

Laurence MacNaughton is the author of more than a dozen novels, novellas, and short stories. His work has been praised by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, RT Book Reviews, Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews. He lives in Colorado with his wife and too many old cars. Try his stories for free at www.laurencemacnaughton.com.

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About Forever and a Doomsday

Crystal shop owner and quick-witted sorceress Dru Jasper is the guardian of the apocalypse scroll, an ancient instrument of destruction held in check by seven bloodred seals. All but one have been broken.

Now, a chilling cohort of soul-devouring wraiths has risen from the netherworld to crack open the final seal. If Dru and her misfit friends can’t stop them, the world will come to a fiery end. No pressure or anything.

These freakishly evil spirits can kill with a mere touch, making them impossible to fight by mortal means. To keep the apocalypse scroll out of their clutches, Dru must solve a 2,000-year-old magical mystery, find a city lost in the netherworld, and unearth a crystal older than the Earth itself.

Can she elude the forces of darkness long enough to save her friends and safeguard the scroll forever—before the undead break the seventh seal and bring on doomsday?

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound Kobo

1 comment:

  1. Very helpful ideas. Some I have stumbled through on my own, but some have caused me real headaches. The copy and paste the change under each chapter is very useful. A constant reminder until it all meshes. Changing from 1st to 3rd...late in the game...I'd rather toss the whole thing. Smile.