This is the eight installment in the “HOW I WRITE” series I’m participating in every Wednesday with several writers, where we all discuss how we approach writing a book. Every writer has a different process and this project gives us a chance to share and compare ours. Click on the “How I Write” image to find a list of the participating writers and links to their blogs.
Last week we talked about Revision – How To Begin. This week’s topic is Revision – First Pass, Resources and Critique Groups.
This week’s topic is quite timely, as I’m revising a book right now. As I mentioned last week, I’m still refining my revision process, and so the way I’m doing it now may or may not be exactly the way I do it for the next book – who knows. But in the meantime, here’s my process for first pass revisions.
- Revisit the storyboard. As discussed previously.
- Print the manuscript. Double-spaced, with text on just one side of the paper.
- Read the printed manuscript, marking up problem areas on each page with a red pen as I go. I use the margins and the back of the pages to take notes. I suppose sticky notes, index cards or notebooks would work, but I’m prone to either misplacing those of having one of my children steal them when I’m not looking and turn them into Pac-man and Super Mario Brothers cutouts. It takes me about 2 to 5 days to complete this step, and I don’t stop until I’ve made it to the end of the book and noted all the areas I need to change. I’m looking for things like:
- Technical and continuity errors (Did I contradict myself? Mix up character names? Break the rules of my own world?)
- Weak and awkward phrases
- Lacking emotion/description/tension
- Does each scene have a goal, conflict and resolution (or motivation to make a new decision)?
- Unrealistic dialog (when I read it out loud, does it sound realistic? forced? corny?)
- “Telling” (summarizing events and feelings) instead of “Showing” (describing them as they unfold)
- Overuse of words
- Places where the story drags
- Scenes that feel incomplete
- Grammar errors, misspellings and typos
- With my marked-up printed pages and scribbled notes as a guide, I save a new version of my manuscript and type in the revisions. I try not to leave a scene until it is completely revised.
- Give it to my critique partner, hubby and perhaps an honest friend to read and share their opinion. I don’t participate in any critique groups at this time, but I’m finding that I’m getting the feedback I need right now from these two or three folks just fine.
Here’s a few of the resources I use when editing (the ones with an asterisk (*) are free):
- The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great, by Donald Maass
- Writing the Breakout Novel and Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, also by Donald Maass
- Goal, Motivation & Conflict The Building Blocks of Good Fiction, by Debra Dixon
- *Thesaurus.com – a good, thorough online synonym finder (just ignore all the ads)
- *OneLook.com- a reverse dictionary that lets you type in a definition or idea that you’re thinking of, and it comes up with potential words. Nice for when you can’t think of the word that’s on the tip of your tongue!
- *Synonyms.com – oddly enough, I only use the antonym section of this site. Comes in handy sometimes, though
- *Online Etymology Dictionary – a great resource when writing historicals, and you need to verify whether or not a word was around during that time
And that’s how I get through a first pass at revisions. Next week I’ll cover how I know when the story is done, and ready to submit. Don’t forget to visit other participating blogs to see how differently we writers handle revisions!