For the previous posts in this series on my writing process, click on the links below.
Part 1 - Introductions
Part 2 - Ideas
Part 3 - Outlining
Part 4 - First Draft

Today's post addresses how I revise my manuscript.

Revisions are the never-ending process of taking that cruddy first draft and turning it into something you hope others will find great. For me, there are many different levels of revision. However, the first level starts with my own. Long before I ever allow even my wife to read my work (she gets first dibs), I revise the work several times myself.

In a perfect world, I would rather wait to start the revision process until I’m completely done with a first draft but sometimes, as drafts evolve, you realize that something you originally wrote isn’t working and it will cause a problem later. Granted, I could still fix the issue after completing a first draft, which I often do if the change is minor. However, if the change is something significant, I’ll stop my first draft and make the necessary revisions early on simply for my own peace of mind.

For this post, I’m going to assume that I was able to wait until the first draft is complete before starting to revise. So, my approach is to obviously go back to the first chapter and start reading the manuscript. At this stage, I’m cleaning up and correcting the biggest mistakes in my prose as I go along, but it is not yet my main focus. The story itself is still most important, so I’m trying to examine each scene, asking myself various questions. Is the story being told from the right POV character? Are the characters consistent and acting naturally? Do I adequately describe the setting? Is the plot moving forward? Is the pacing ok? And so on. Ultimately, I just want to make sure the scene doesn’t suck.

This second draft usually takes awhile as I’m cleaning up the first draft while examining the story, and not everything is as coherent as I feel it should be. Something else I also do at this time is take notes. I write down character or scene descriptions, bits of foreshadowing, and so on to make sure that I don’t drop a fact later on in the story that I needed to address.

The third draft involves a lot of jumping around. I’m looking at the notes I made earlier and addressing any inconsistencies while adding depth to the characters, world, and story. Often at this point, I am adding or cutting large pieces of texts or entire scenes to make sure the flow of the story is what it should be.

The fourth draft (and sometimes fifth and sixth) is read from the beginning again. This stage is to really clean up the prose before giving it to Leah to read. I’m still not analyzing every sentence just yet since I still know a lot can change. However, I want to make sure that the prose isn’t so bad that it distracts her from the story itself. I’ll usually extract all POV scenes by certain characters and read only those if I’m trying to work on consistency in their voices as well.

After completing this process, it’s time for the first alpha-read which I’ll discuss next time.

I would like to make one closing point. When writing Rise and Fall (ahem, scheduled for release on December 1), I had probably at least a dozen drafts before I even gave the story to Leah. However, I’ve written several things since then and as one would assume, my writing is much better than it had been. Therefore, it doesn’t take me quite as long to get it to a readable stage as it once did. Hopefully, I can cut down my drafts even more in the future.

How do you handle revisions?


4 Responses so far.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Not to step on your subject....You seem like a knowledgable guy... Just a quick question. What do you think of The Borribles"?

  2. I actually never heard of them until you posted. I just did a quick search on Wikipedia and then read the sample at Amazon. It seems like an interesting idea/premise. Prose seems to fit the subject matter.

    I'll throw the question back at you since you brought them up. Ha. What do you think of The Borribles?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I have to admit... It's been quite a few years since I read it.. And I just recently became aware of the rest of the trilogy. But as I recall... I was impressed with the blunt, decidedly unromantic handing of the violence, while still putting out a good story appropriate for a kid. (12-14 yr old). It was an "ok" trip into the "adult" world for me.. If there is such a thing. Gotta look for the other 2... I understand they get more intense as they go along.

  4. Cool. I saw there is an omnibus out that collects all three books. It may be worth your while to buy that rather than trying to hunt up the 2nd and 3rd books in the series.

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