Once I’ve finished collecting the feedback on the draft of my manuscript, I get ready to go into the next step of my revision process. The second step in my revision process is to create the plan for the revisions that need to take place.
This step is definitely one that varies writer to writer. Some writers are pantsers, which means they dive into a story or revision without much of a plan and ride the creativity wave where it decides to take them. Other writers are plotters, which means they create an outline, make notes, plan scenes, dialogue, etc and follow that path to write or revise their story. I am very much a plotter in both my drafting and revising process. I take the notes, thoughts, and ideas that came out of the feedback part of the process and start deciding where I will focus my energy in the revision process. Ninety percent of the time, especially in the first revision, those revisions are focused on filling holes in my plot. I find that plot holes happen and I need to add scenes and chapters to the story where the action has jumped from one thing to the next without enough happening to properly make the leap in the story. This happens most often when a character goes rogue within the story as I was writing it. I like to write from a plan, but I absolutely love the magic that happens when a character takes over a moment or a piece of the story and starts reacting to it in ways I didn’t expect. It leads to some messier places in the draft, but I know stifling that magic would crush parts of my story. I try to remind myself during the writing process that I’ll catch those holes and messes in the revision process and let the characters take over when I haven’t planned on them to do something they need to do. I take a lot of time during this step of the process to go through the draft and see where a character has gone off the path and figure out what needs to be fixed. I find the places where they need to show up in the action more or interact with other characters more for them to have a complete character arc that matches whatever new thing they decided to do.
Now, the type of revising I’m taking notes on will dictate where I make those notes. While I love to type the majority of my stories during my writing process, this step in my revision process is different. I like to do some of this on paper and some of it digitally. As I’m going along, I bounce between my paper copy of the manuscript, lined paper/sticky notes, and my Scrivener doc. Usually I’ve planned the story well before I began drafting and know what the first act is going to entail. That leads to fewer big story revisions within those chapters in the first act, which means I do a lot of that work in the paper copy of the story. In many of those cases, I’m focusing on cleaning up dialogue or adding a few paragraphs of description within a chapter of the first act. When I get into the second act where I find those bigger story revisions need to take place, especially where a whole new chapter or scene needs to be written, I jump into my Scrivener doc and work in there. This is usually where I wind up writing anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 new words and creatively that amount of words flows much better across the keyboard than my hand trying to get my pen to write them fast enough. I have tried before to stick with one way of doing revisions, either completely digitally or completely on paper, but found that the rigidity of that didn’t allow for my creativity to flow where ever it wanted to take me. I find my energy is much more productive when I let this part of the process take me between the different tools where and when it needs me to be there. This part of the process, the planning for where the revisions need to happen, is one I am really protective of. I take my time with it because I know that when I do this step well, all of the information I’ve collected about where the story isn’t as strong and where characters need more time to walk along the pages, pays off in the next step of the process in beautiful ways.
In case you haven’t been told today, you are more than enough.
I want to share a very important two part disclaimer. First, this process is going to vary writer to writer, and sometimes, project to project. The steps I’ll talk about in this series are based on the steps I follow now, which are the result of a lot of trial and error over the years based on a whole lot of different processes I’ve read about or seen used. Second, this process is about revising a manuscript for big picture/whole story fixes. This isn’t about line editing for grammar and/or punctuation mistakes.