The Revision Process

Elana Johnson had not just one great post but a second great post on Getting to 100%. Her first blog entry was thoroughly rah-rah, sis-boom-bah about getting your novel and your query to 100% before even thinking about shipping them out. Her second post elaborated on the original premise by stating that getting to 100% was more about an emotional state -- are you confident enough to send your babies out into the publishing world?

This is a fascinating premise, because we writers are not always the most confident bunch. Cold rejection for our query and manuscript waits behind every rock in the big, scary world, ready to spring forth and say, "Boo." Actually, it's more likely to be a jack-in-the-box with copy paper stapled to its head, the word, "Boo" printed in Times New Roman. Naturally, we will try to interpret the meaning of "Boo" and make ourselves neurotic.

Since I'm in the first round of revisions of Mythos, I began to wonder at what point I might be confident enough to say that this urban fantasy of mine is 100%. So, let's see. What are my revision plans?

Revision Round #1 - Decrap-ification (in progress)
  1. Kill some recycled trees and print the first draft.
  2. Read it and take copious notes all over the page. Can't put the check here yet. I'm halfway done.
  3. Make all the changes from step #2.

Revision Round #2 - Incorporating feedback
  1. Gather all the critiques from the critique group (in this case, my YA writing pals on writing.com).
  2. For any editing/grammar nits, revise appropriately.
  3. For the "big issues", like characterization, plot, setting, voice, etc., decide if I agree with these points. 
  • If I agree, revise appropriately. 
  • If I don't agree, but several others do, consider that I may be wrong and revise appropriately. 
  • If I don't agree, but only one or two others do, the author wins. (Stephen King rule)
Revision Round #3 - Grammar and Dialog
  1. Judicious use of MS Word spell and grammar check. Correct as needed.
  2. Read the book out loud, or use tools like ReadPlease to read the book to me.
  3. Immediately fix the obvious grammatical issues.
  4. Immediately fix the horrendous dialog that the ear makes far more obvious than the eyeball.
Revision Round #4 - The automaton editor - bring on the pain
  1. This is where I take the book chapter by chapter through manuscript editing software. I've used AutoCrit and been quite happy with the results.
  2. This isn't so much about grammar or spelling, but more about finding repetition, clich├ęs, poor sentence pacing, readability, etc.
  3. This is tedious and painful. The Terminator is not kind.
  4. Revise appropriately.
 Revision Round #5 - One last look - one rule - no MAJOR changes allowed
  1. Gather any additional feedback and revise as needed (see round #2)
  2. One more MS Word spelling & grammar check.
  3. Final read through and tweaks.
I have that rule in round #5 to ensure I actually finish. I've heard of artists who keep going back to the same painting, and never finish. There's always something to fix, to touch up, or to re-do. Life just isn't long enough, and I have too many other ideas for me to allow that to happen. If I were to reach round #5, and the book still had major structural problems not fixed in an earlier round, shame on me, and I'd have to change my plans.

However, it's at the end of round #5 that I expect to cross that emotional hurdle, where I can say, "Yeah, this is good." I won't go back and read the manuscript again, except to help building the synopsis and query. *shudders* Okay, let me just get through the revisions before worrying about the query and synopsis.


      Elana Johnson said...

      Wow, what a great process! I haven't heard of ReadPlease or AutoCrit, so I'm going to look into those. I always read my novel out loud, but in my own voice.

      middle grade ninja said...

      Fortunately for me, the first draft of everything I write comes out perfect as though I am taking dictation from a higher power. In fact, I load chapters into a printing press as I finish them. But if for some reason this were ever not true, this post has many helpful ideas for how to revise:) Great stuff. Thanks for sharing.

      Jay said...

      Hi Elana - yeah, sometimes I'm lazy and get sick of my own voice, so the robotic monotone amuses me. :-) Autocrit is incredibly cool. It's like a cheap editor!

      Ninja - Channeling perfection. Right? My computer is hooked directly into Random House's print facilities. :-)