Especially the parts of the process that you are unfamiliar with. How else do you know where to begin? Or what order to tackle everything?
I mentioned this in the last Writer’s Diary, but since I am going to start my Far North revisions next month, I wanted to come up with a revision plan to guide me through the process. Especially since a revision of this scale is really new to me, and I don’t want to get overwhelmed and disheartened.
And the idea to give this process some structure came to me pretty recently. It was only in February that I thought that I should probably go into this with a plan. After all, it’s new to me. It’s something I’ve never seen through to the end, and it’s kind of a big project. It doesn’t seem right to wing it.
So I made a plan.
And I’m writing this post for any who are like me, who are trying something new or who are totally unsure of where to begin. Make a plan. Even if you’ve done it before, try making a plan. What could you do a little differently to be more effective? What order should you tackle each task in? You’ve nothing to lose, and everything to gain, so why not? It doesn’t take very long, and think of all the benefits:
- You’ll waste no time in wondering what to do next
- You can anticipate problems and create solutions
- You can keep yourself organized
- You’ll feel more confident if you know what you need to do
- It can reduce stress and feelings of overwhelm
I’ve made a plan for so many things. Creating this blog, starting an Etsy store. It only makes sense that I do the same for writing. Every aspect of it. Not just the drafting part.
Now that the obvious is out of the way, I thought I’d talk a little more about creating a revision plan specifically. If like me, you are starting a big revision and you don’t know where to start, or you will be after April’s Camp NaNoWriMo, allow me to share some of my thoughts and maybe this can help you create a revision outline too.
Always Start with the Biggest Problem
I think the most important part of this process is the order in which you do tackle everything. Always start with the biggest problems first. If your plot is something of a mess, you need to get that sorted before you worry about how well your metaphors work. Things that are determined by the text itself, like descriptions, pacing and dialogue, should be dealt with after you have figured out the plot arcs, character arcs, and subplots.
If you do it another way, you may end up wasting time on perfecting words and paragraphs you won’t end up keeping. Or it might make you feel too precious with lines and paragraphs that should really be cut. In the long run, it will save you time, and by tackling the biggest problems first, you can address any effects they may have on the rest of the book. Each pass through will only make it stronger, otherwise, you might end up with an even bigger mess. It’s happened to me before and it only makes you confused and robs you of your motivation.
To make your plan, create a list of tasks regarding how you plan to tackle your revisions. These will, of course, be tailored to your strengths and weaknesses, but I do have a list of considerations to help you get started:
- What order you do you want to do everything?
- How you want to tackle it – are you going chapter by chapter? Scene by scene? Act by act?
- Are you going to remake your outline? Do you have an outline at all and if not, are you going to make one? Is this your first step or does this come later?
- Are you going to do a line-by-line rewrite or just rewrite what needs work?
- What element of the story needs the most work? Descriptions? Pacing? Dialogue? Tension?
- Are you going to focus on one element at a time or bunch them together?
- When do you tackle smaller things like subplots?
Depending on how in depth you want to go with this revision, you might also want to consider breaking it up into stages or phases. For my revision plan, I have three phases:
- An initial read-through of my manuscript, looking for major issues in plot and story structure
- Write out brief character descriptions with an explanation of what drives them throughout the story
- Write brief setting descriptions with sensory detail
- Create a map of the area
- A second read-through of my manuscript, looking for problems with character motivation, character arcs and overall worldbuilding elements
- Rewrite my outline using everything listed above as a guide
- Line by line rewrite using my new outline as a guide
- Take a short break between this rewrite and the next read through
- Another read through for issues in plot and structure
- Analyze each scene and compare it to the outline
- Edit for plot and story structure
- Another read for worldbuilding and character
- Edit to strengthen character arcs and worldbuilding
- Another round of edits to adjust pacing and flow
- Quick proofread
- Send to betas!
Phase three is a little more unclear because so much of it will depend on what feedback I get. Baring any massive problems that come up during the beta process, it will probably consist of one more final pass through for any problems that my betas bring to my attention with line edits and proofreading to finish it up.
And that’s all three phases of my process!
Will this be enough? To be honest, I don’t know. It might be too much, it might not be enough. As with anything, you need to be open to making changes to your process. I expect that it will change, just because I’ve never done such a big revision before. And that’s why I made this guide in the first place. Without trying to articulate my process into a list, I would honestly have no idea what to do first aside from read through my manuscript a few times.
It always helps to have a plan in place, no matter what you’re doing, or what stage you are in, am I right?
Enough about me and my process! Have you ever revised a novel? Or attempted a big creative project? Did you make a plan? How did you go about it? Let me know down below!