Revision is My Favorite: Step Two


REVISION PASSES.It’s time for the second post in my Revision Is My Favorite blog series! The last time we talked, I was like “Oh sure, here’s my reverse outlining process and it’ll only take me a week to do this!” And here we are. Three weeks later. Sometimes books are hard, y’all. So it took me three weeks, with multiple days off for brain juice, life, and marching for science, but I rewrote Act I essentially and revised Acts II and III. I thought that Act III was going to take me forever, but I finished it in a day, because all I was doing was making sure that plot/those holes were plugged according to my reverse outline. And that happened.Here's the mostly-before and the after-shot on Scrivener's corkboard (I'll talk about Scrivener in my next post.) The next step in my revision process is making a list of all my revision passes. I can’t give you my passes for this book, because that would be SUPER SPOILERS for everything happening in the book, but I can give you examples!What’s a revision pass?It breaks the book/revision process into manageable pieces. If I think about everything I have to do in the next two weeks to make this book readable, I will become a puddle on the floor and melt into my own tears. And then the book will never get fixed. And if it never gets fixed, I miss my deadlines, I don’t get paid, my agent is sad, my editor is confused, and you all are like “What’s Katherine doing? Oh. Crying. Huh. That seems unproductive.”And you would be right.So I try not to think about fixing the ENTIRE BOOK ALL AT ONCE very often.What I do is create a to-do list.

  1. Character A’s voice
  2. Character B’s voice
  3. Character B and Character D’s relationship
  4. Character A and Character M’s relationship
  5. Character A and Character B’s relationship
  6. Setting
  7. Magic system??
  8. That sneaky thing I’m trying to do with the plot
  9. Dialogue
  10. That other sneaky thing I’m trying to do with the plot
  11. Layers on the metaphor and moral struggles
  12. Structural check
  13. Character voice check
  14. Voice/Nitpicky things

I almost always start with character voice and end with authorial voice. That’s my choice. Partially because I think I’m still developing an authorial voice, and partially because it’s the easiest thing to lose in revisions (for me). I want to make sure that I don’t lose what makes the book jump off the page by tinkering with the mechanics of the book. The other reason I start with voice is this: begin as you mean to go on. By beginning with an emphasis on character voice, I’m committing to character-first, and ultimately, I’m a character writer. Plots exist because they do cool things to characters, not because plots themselves are fun to write.So. I make a list of all the things I need to fix in the book. If you decide to try this, your list might be different. Your list might be:

  1. Fix plot
  2. Change setting from Minnesota to New Mexico
  3. Change character A from hetero to queer af
  4. Delete Character B’s mom from the book
  5. Change from HS theater program to HS lit mag

Or something like that. Your list is your list.Write it out in the order that you want to accomplish those changes. That’ll make it easier and it’ll help you hold yourself accountable. Once I have my list, I start going through it, one complete pass through the book at a time. I’m currently on Character A’s voice. Sometimes it’ll be easy---a chapter is already voicey and she doesn’t need adjustment--and sometimes it’ll be hard. Last night, on my first pass through for her voice, I ended up rewriting the back half of the first chapter. Brand new stuff. After I had already written a new first chapter for my plot-structural fixing pass from reverse outlining.Like I said. Writing is hard. But, I ended last night with a chapter I’m really proud of. I’m sure it’ll keep changing, but I feel confident enough to move onto the next chapter. So onward with the revision passes. My deadline’s creeping up on me, so I’m going to need to be very efficient with these passes, but without combining them because combining a pass for me is like multitasking: I’ll get it done, but it won’t be pretty and neither task will be truly complete.Slow but steady wins the race/meets the deadline/finishes the book/gets to nap in June.