I’m now in the middle of revising a novel after having received my editor’s feedback. Although the draft I submitted to her wasn’t nearly as bad as that sweater, it has required some major rethinking, reorganizing, and rewriting. Thankfully, I learned about redo's from the sweater experience and made a solid plan for this revision draft. Here’s what I’ve done:
- First, I read my editor’s letter, which addressed general overall problems. It contained a lot of questions that helped me be aware of the issues and stimulated my mind to start working on solutions. Then I read her inline comments, which pinpointed trouble areas, gave concrete examples of the problems, and noted inconsistencies.
- Then I took a few days away from the manuscript to let my mind work on the issues. I also breathed, and told myself I could do this, and prayed.
- I talked with my editor a few times about possible solutions. Two (or three or four) minds are always better than one, and it was so energizing and encouraging to work together on something we both believe in and love.
- I opened my story notebook—an ordinary composition book dedicated to this story—and wrote everything I knew so far about the revision. The physical act of writing with a pen helps my mind focus and open up.
- I created a spreadsheet (I’m the spreadsheet girl!), with columns for the chapter number; scene; brief description of what happens in the scene; what needs to changed, added, or removed; and notes (which can include more questions and things to do earlier or later in the story).
- I divided the number of manuscript pages by the number of days before the next draft was due, excluding days when I wouldn’t be writing. I also scheduled time at the end for another pass, to weave in and tie off and embellish where needed. (Although revising blocks of pages seemed like a good plan at first, I found that finishing whole scenes or chapters has worked better so that I can maintain their momentum.)
- Finally, I began the rewriting process, starting from chapter 1. After each scene I asked:
- What happens in this scene?
- Is there enough tension?
- What new story questions does it ask?
- What questions does it answer?
- How does it further the story?
- Is everything in the scene necessary?
- Is anything missing?
- Is this scene even necessary?
- Does it belong somewhere else?
- Does it make sense; is it believable in this story world?
- Do I still love this story?
My next post will be that 20/20-hindsight “What I Learned” list, in hopes it might save some other revisionists the trouble of tearing out the whole sweater. Until then, write on, brave monkeys!