Revisions Process–Reading Through

This is the second post in my series about how I’m revising and resubmitting my novel in response to a R&R request from an agent. In my first post in the series, I talked about how I made myself a schedule to live by. This post will be about the next step in my process–reading my old manuscript.

One of the suggestions I live by for general revisions is to set the manuscript aside for a while and read it with fresh eyes. I found this of limited use on the first few passes. I just hadn’t forgotten enough of the story or grown enough as a writer for it to be more than a slightly useful refresher.

But this time, my manuscript had been sitting for months. Not only that, but I’d written a completely different novel and started a third novel in the interim. This time was much more useful.

I decided not to read my novel in Scrivener because I knew I’d be tempted to make ongoing, immediate changes while I was reading it. But I wanted to get a full, macro view of the story before deciding which changes would be necessary and how best to do them. I knew I would have to fight that temptation.

So I exported my novel to my Kindle, pulled out my legal pad, and decided to do things the old-fashioned way: notes by hand.

I do this a lot for the day job and it seems to really help with focusing on bigger picture. I first reviewed the feedback from the agent and noted things down in differently colored pens–purple for likes, red for needs improvement, and blue for my attempts to read between the lines. I wanted to have that as a quick reference while reading through the novel.

As I read, I took notes. Not massive quantities of minute notes: I tried to only make notes when something was questionable, a good area for a change, or was a typo. Again, I had out my whole set of colored pens. My brain just works better in color!

Chapter numbers went in purple boxes. A context note went in blue ink, so that I’d know where the change needed to go. The types of changes each merited a different color: red for typos, pink for possible changes responsive to the agent’s suggestions, and green for questions that I had for myself (usually about consistency). I knew that I wanted to save black for later strike-throughs on ideas I implemented or rejected.

The end result was 32 pages of handwritten notes.

Colored pen notes.

It was pretty intense. But in the end, I had a road map for the changes that I needed to make on revision, which proved invaluable in not getting myself bogged down in tiny details for the first pass of major story-level revisions.

Which I’ll talk about next week!

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