Friday, December 11, 2009

The Red Ink Blues, or, Revising Your Novel Without Pulling Your Hair Out, Part IV

This time around, I'm trying to make editing easier on myself. Every little change matters, big or as small as the drop of water shown above. Printing out my manuscript has helped me to keep track of those changes, to really see my progress. It'll be fun to look back on this print-out by the time I get feedback from betas. But I know I'm not ready for that stage. Are you?

Oh, so you think your revisions are done, eh? Let's see what author Holly Lisle has to say about that.

In case you've never heard of her, she's the author of over thirty novels and writing books. You can download a free pdf of her book Mugging the Muse: Writing Fiction for Love and Money and check out her other books here. One of the best tips I got from this e-book is that while we must feel empathy for our characters to properly understand them, if we feel too much sympathy, we won't be able to do the bad things that need to be done to them. Too true, Holly!

Holly's article, How to Revise a Novel, was the resource that convinced me to print out a copy of Mara's story for this revision. Before I printed, I did do a quick read-through to correct any glaring mistakes and familiarize myself with the story again. Now, I know that I'm probably going to use Holly's technique at least one more time before I start querying, but I wanted to try her method before I sent it out to betas.

She informally calls this the "truly ferocious pre-submission edit", which I love. She tries not to edit too much before she gets feedback from her agent/editor, a position we'll all hopefully be in someday, right?

I couldn't agree with her more. I must have read EVANGELINE through on the computer screen over a dozen times when I started revising the first draft-- and I still didn't catch all the typos. And I definitely wasn't seeing the BIGGER PICTURE we talked about yesterday.

So now with Mara's story, I'm trying it Holly's way-- printing out the manuscript and asking myself a series of questions as I read, making notes on the manuscript, and others in my notebook. That's the first step of her process. I'm hoping to start sending this manuscript out to betas in January, so I've set myself a goal, which is the second step.

As I read through, I'm asking myself questions about the characters and scenes, making sure every character and scene is pulling their own weight to make the story work. If not, consolidate them. Make three characters into one if that makes better sense for your story. Ask, "Does this scene matter?" If not, drop it. Make sure all the threads of your subplots have been caught up. And of course, make sure you catch your typos and keep chapter headings consistent.

Any notes that need more space than the margin of your print-out? Those go in your notebook. Now it's time to rewrite, add, or delete your changes. Read it through one last time and, hey, presto, a revised manuscript!

Hopefully, when I've finished this process, my betas will cheer, telling me that the manuscript is perfect, needs no changes and will knock Stephenie Meyer down a peg (I've always wanted to say that, lol) on the NYT Bestsellers list. Yeah. Right. ;)

So check out Holly Lisle's articles. If you're interested, her next revision workshop begins January 2nd, 2010. Sign up or learn more about it HERE.

And happy revisions!


Abby Annis said...

Your feed updated! Yea! Glad you got it fixed.

These are such great tips. I wish I'd had a clue what I was doing when I started revising. It's been a long bumbling process and now I'm rewriting it anyway. Maybe my next adventure will be less chaotic. Of course, that might not be possible for me. :)

Can't wait to read Mara's story. :D

Susan R. Mills said...

Great tips! I work from a print out of my manuscript already, but I usually do that to catch typos and stuff, not to get a feel for the big picture. I'm going to check out her link now. Thanks for sharing.

Julie Dao said...

Thanks for the tips! I am STILL trying to finish my NaNo novel so I can start the massive revision process. I'll definitely be using this advice when the time comes!

Jade said...

Yeah, I print out my ms. It always helps me. Thanks for the cool posts.

Voidwalker said...

Nice info again! Time to completely re-write my book LOL

Tere Kirkland said...

Abby, yes, thanks so much for your help! And ask and ye shall receive, I'm sure you'll be seeing it soon enough. ;)

Susan, Jade, y'all are the smart ones. I don't know why I resisted the print-out for so long, but from now on that's the only way to revise for me.

Julie, good luck on your NaNo. If it makes you feel better, I only just finished another revision of my 2008 NaNo project.

Voidwalker- funny you should mention that. I've actually been thinking of rewriting one of my trunked novels from scratch. The story was good, but the style was all over the place and it had major structural problems. I'll probably start it when I send my WiP to betas and start querying EVANGELINE again. I think that it just might work this time around.

L.T. Elliot said...

Thanks for this excellent series of posts! You have a lot of great advice and links that are so helpful! I'm sending you happy thoughts in your revisions and knowing you'll do just great!

Alyssa Kirk @ Teens Read and Write said... 'em and hate 'em. Great post! Happy to find you!

V. S said...

Oh, the joy of revisions. It never seems to end. Great post!

MG Higgins said...

Great advice! I'm going to check out that article.

Tere Kirkland said...

L.T., glad I could help! I scour the interwebs for revising information so you don't have to. ;)

Alyssa, thanks for stopping by! Right now I'm loving revisions on one project, and hating them on another.

V.S., thank you. Hopefully, I'll have another revision post up this week, but I want it to be a good one, so it might take some time.

M.G., Holly's techniques work for me, but I do take some liberties and change things around to suit the way I read and edit. It's been working pretty well so far. Hope it works for you, too!