TIPS FOR ORGANIZING YOUR REVISION…
….AND MAKING THE PROCESS A LITTLE LESS PAINFUL
STEP ONE: REST
After I send my MS off to CPs for review, I take a month away from it and read something completely different from my story—a memoir, short story collection, or nature book. This sort of cleanses my palate and helps me return to my MS with fresh eyes. I also use this time to brainstorm my next WIP.
STEP TWO: LISTEN
There are many apps that can read your MS to you, but most computers have a built-in narrator, too. On my Macbook I highlight the text and press Opt + S. Narration speed and vocals can be adjusted in settings. This helps me concentrate on plot, pacing, dialogue, and character without being tempted to stop every three seconds to deliberate over line edits and grammar. I usually stop after each chapter and jot down notes, but that’s it. Also, this is how I get house chores and exercise done without losing time with my story. When I commuted 45-minutes to work, I’d buckle my laptop into the passenger seat and play my manuscript through an auxiliary cord.
STEP THREE: SYNOPSES
After listening to the MS, I make an outline from memory, concentrating on hitting all the points in my character arcs rather than summarizing each scene. I look for inconsistent, unrealistic, or unexplained changes in my characters. Then I do the same type of synopsis for plot. One of my personal weaknesses is the tendency to tug my character back and forth in regards to tension, rather than creating scenes and moments that gradually build on one another and mount toward the climax.
STEP FOUR: Rewrite
If significant plot and character changes are necessary, I find it so much easier to rewrite (completely from scratch without leaning on the original text). It holds me accountable to making the difficult big-picture changes and not just rearranging words. Then I repeat steps 1-4 and before moving on to #5, I read through the MS several more times, focusing on different elements each time (character, plot, setting, details, etc.
STEP FIVE: REVISE
I make a list of any unanswered questions or loose ends I found in my MS and feather in the necessary details. Then I do a search for filter words, and finally look at grammar and punctuation. These five steps take me….an embarrassingly long time. Sometimes I get stuck at the “rewrite” stage for several months. When I finally get to step five, it’s a real watershed moment.