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!

Keeping Things Straight

I’ve always been the kind of person that takes copious notes.  One of the things that has really improved my writing life is the little wiki program that I use to keep track of my book notes and story ideas.  I use a really simple free app that I found in an android store because the more complicated wiki programs really intimidated me.  I just wanted something that would work, not something I would have to spend valuable time figuring out how to use.

I used to have a little spiral notebook.  It was a huge distraction.  I would get upset at stupid things like not planning enough pages for this character sketch or that piece of worldbuilding, and then I’d have to re-write the whole thing or I’d end up spending time flipping around without being able to find the information that I was looking for.  With the wiki program,  I can add information in the right spot.  And even more importantly, I can very easily go back and edit information (like when I decided to make all the characters in my novel a little older).  I keep character sketches, lists, random thoughts, and my outline all in one convenient place.  And  use.

But like so many technology things, it’s a blessing and a curse.  I have days like today where I catch myself spending more time updating my wiki files than actually writing.  In a way even that is good because it gets me to think more about the plot and characters and the way things are interconnected.  But it’s also bad, because the time I spend doing it is time I spend not writing.  And it’s really bad when I pop into the wiki to figure out one tiny thing like a super minor side character’s hair color… and then spend twenty minutes updating character files and lose the flow of what I was writing completely.