Writing your book, revision

I’ve given tips on getting started and on writing the first draft. The next step in writing your book is to start the revision. I do this in layers so I can concentrate on the big issues then work my way down to the commas and typos. It’s like reducing the roughness of the sandpaper when you make furniture.

writing your book, writing, revision, editing, polishing

Writing your book, the first pass of revision

Because I get the first draft out of my head and onto the page as fast as possible, I find exciting things that need to be included in the plot line and I sometimes find I’ve skipped some scenes.

While I do try to get all of the story out, I don’t worry much about conflict and ‘showing not telling’ when I do the first draft. So my number one goal in revision is to make sure the story in on the page and the threads are woven in. I don’t worry about the artistry of the weaving for the first pass

When writing your book, I recommend you make notes (don’t make changes yet), that answer these three questions:

  1. what conflict needs to be introduced
  2. what giant leaps of story need to be connected
  3. what new action needs to be woven in

There is a fourth question that I rarely have to deal with because I’m a plotter – what needs to be taken out?

In my book Off Track, I initially had Jode as a walk-on character. No spoilers, but during the first draft, he let me know that wasn’t good enough. I listened, and in first revision pass I built him into the beginning of the story to support his new role.

When you are writing your book, take the notes and then do your first revision pass with the whole book in mind.

Pass 2 to infinity

Maybe not infinity, but the number of revisions will depend on the writer and the book. I’ve done everything between three full rewrites and just a few polish passes. Take care when writing your book that you don’t get into editing paralysis. Get someone to look at the book after you think it’s good (not perfect) and listen to their advice. I’ll write about the value of critique in another post.

The revision passes when writing your book are:

  • after the ‘fixing the story’ pass you need to put the story aside for a while to get some distance – write another book – then go through and make notes about how you feel about the characters. You need to empathize with them so your reader can.
  • After you’ve built up the characters, go through and see if the reader will know where your story takes place, maybe you’ll need a little revision on the setting.
  • Now you’ve dealt with conflict and story, characters and setting, it’s time for the fine sandpaper. This is where I start looking at the artistry in my writing. Changing the wording, looking for typos and grammar.

The process I recommend when writing your book recognizes that you need to polish, but there’s no point in making a sentence perfect until the story is strong. Why waste time on parsing a sentence that may not make it to the final version.

Good luck. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll answer them.