Revisions are the bane of most writers’ existence. They’re evil, difficult, time-consuming, and sometimes disheartening. But take heart, Intrepid Fellow Writers! I’ve worked out a system that works pretty well for me, and maybe it’ll work pretty well for you, too.
As soon as I finish the first draft of anything, I stick it in the proverbial drawer and ignore it for about a month. Then I go back to it with fresh eyes and write a complete, chapter-by-chapter outline to use as a sort of roadmap for my first round of revisions. There are 6 questions I ask myself about each chapter:
- What is the POV character trying to accomplish?
- Why is s/he trying to accomplish this?
- What’s in the way of her/him accomplishing this?
- What happens if s/he can’t do #1?
- What goes right/wrong in the chapter?
- What details are present in the chapter that I have to keep track of and remember for future chapters?
I usually end up writing all this stuff out by hand, though it might be easier for you to do it in a spreadsheet. When my map is finished, the next step is to create a plan. Plans are very good. Plans help me figure out just what the heck is going on with this unruly first draft and how to fix any problems–and believe me, there are usually a TON of problems. My plan usually consists of a hand-written list of revisions I want to make to each chapter. I also make notes while I’m creating the map. I look at stuff like weak motivations and goals, heavy info dumps or descriptions (I’m so guilty of this!), faulty logic, and places where there needs to be more emotion. I also keep an eye out for scenes that don’t really have a point or scenes that could be fleshed out more, characters who don’t grow and evolve throughout the story, any forgotten details or loose ends that need to be addressed, and places where I could add more tension and conflict or where consequences need to be clarified or even added.
Now, armed with my plan and my notes, I’m ready to tackle the revisions. I go chapter by chapter, starting with the beginning, and work my way through carefully. This is a long, hard process for me and there are many times where I just want to give up or scream and pull my hair out. But I tough it out and soldier on.
Once this is done–and it usually takes me a month or so–I send the second draft out to beta readers. Once I get feedback from those super-important people, I like to put their suggestions and comments in another spreadsheet, breaking it down chapter by chapter and reader by reader. This helps me keep track of everything and makes it easier to implement when I get to the actual revisions.
When I’m finished implementing my beta reader’s input, I send the third draft to my editor so she can catch anything I missed. This is also when spelling, grammar, and punctuation get perfected since these are things I do not worry about in either the first or second drafts. When I get my editor’s comments back, I implement her suggestions, creating a third and final draft. And then I format everything for publication, get my book cover, and submit it to Createspace and Amazon.
So, that’s my revision process in a nutshell. Hopefully getting a peek into how I work will help you with your own process.