Friday, August 23, 2013

The Fast Way to Revise

Hi, lovelies!

Today I'm going to talk about how to revise your novel the fastest, most efficient way possible.

Right about now you're rubbing your hands together and cackling and maybe even sending me virtual kisses or cookies because who the hell likes revising forever? And right about now is where I disappoint you.

I'm going to tell you how to be efficient about it, and as fast as possible. But "fast" is a relative term, and it's going to depend on the depth of your revisions, and how fast your personally work. I'm just here to give you a strategy.

I've spent the past six months with stale material. I haven't written anything new since December, and I've been working on revisions for two separate novels pretty consistently. Part of the problem was that both required rewrites and both were novels I hadn't touched in awhile, so I had to reacquaint myself with them. The other problem was that I didn't have a method. There was a lot of writing notes to myself to change things or question things in my second (or bajillionth) re-read. There was color-coding. There was printing the whole thing and reading it through. All of these things were helpful, but not as efficient as I'd like them to be.

So I did this on my last two rounds of revisions and it was much, much faster.

The Big Changes:
This is where I knew I needed to change entire subplots or plot points, or I needed to rearranged the entire middle of the story. The first thing I did was write a synopsis of each chapter the way it was before I started. It wasn't very lengthy, just a few lines. Something like:

Chapter 8: Wren breaks into Mercers' house, steals the shield. Notices it's made of plastic, fake jewel falls off on her way to David's. 

I printed those suckers out and cut them up. Then I put them on my magnetic whiteboard (you can also use your fridge, or floor, whatever) and moved them around until they made sense. I cut them so there was a lot of extra space on both sides, and I wrote on them. I scratched things off. I made notes for myself. I stared at them until I was sure they were in the right order.Then I taped them back together and scanned them into a PDF so that I could have my new (messy) outline hanging out on my desktop while I wrote.

The Small Changes:
Pretty standard, right? I've head that advice before—to cut things up and write a synopsis and move things around, blah blah. The reason I'd never done it before was because it seemed like a whole lot of freaking work. And it is. It definitely is. But I was at the point where I'd rather just get it right this time instead of having to go back...again.

So anyway, once I got that under control it was time to take care of all the small things, the stuff you don't realize you're going to have to change until you've made the big changes. For me, since I had moved so many chapters around and all of those chapters had clues in them, I had to do quite a bit of rearranging of my characters' thought processes. Like if in my new draft they don't find the shield until Chapter 8, but in the old draft it was Chapter 2, then I need to change how they're coming to their conclusions and how they're moving the story along until they do find the shield. In the past, I would just type a little note in the margin to look at that later, something like "Wren needs to notice the shield earlier in the book." Good call, Andrea. I know there's a snafu, but I haven't identified how to fix it or where exactly it should go. So, I started doing this:

Open up a fresh Word doc. Make it into three columns. Label them Act I, II, and III (or Beginning, Middle, End. Whatever works for you). Let's say you come across something that needs to change in the middle of your book, Chapter 15. It's something like "David doesn't know that Wren's seen her chart yet, put that earlier." Well, here's where you're going to do all your thinking. Go back to your messy outline you made when you were revising the big stuff, and decide right then where that information could go. You could even give yourself options. For the purpose of this example, let's say Chapter 3. Go to the first column in your Word Doc (the "Beginning" column) and type yourself a specific note, something like "Ch 3. - Wren tells David she's seen her chart. Possible put after conversation with Joey."

As you find more and more small things that need to change, go ahead and try to figure out where they go right then and write yourself a note for the chapter they will go in. When it's all said and done, you can order them if you want. What you'll have is a nice little list, in order, of all the changes you need to make, what you're going to change, and where specifically it's going to go. I did really well with this method because it helped me organize my functions as a writer: the thinking/problem-solving function, and the writing function. I did all my problem-solving beforehand (and it got easier as I went through the chapters because I was already in that mode), and then I could just go through and fix things much, MUCH faster.

Hope that helps, Secret Lifers. Happy revising!

Oh, and if you haven't heard: we're looking for new members! Check out our post here for the details. You only have until Monday to apply!

Andrea Hannah is a YA writer represented by Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider. She writes stories about criminals, crazy people, and creatures that may or may not exist. When she's not writing, Andrea teaches special education, runs, spends time with her family, and tries to figure out a way to prevent her pug from opening the refrigerator (still unsuccessful). Oh, and she tweets a bajillion times a day, mostly about inappropriate things.

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