April 26, 2012

How I Write A Novel Part Six: 2nd Round of Revisions

When I hit this stage of the process, I am feeling a little bit like this towards my manuscript:

Okay, still with me? I am going to get into the nitty gritty of the revision process now and that is the major revision that I do once I hear back from my crit partners. I am blessed, blessed, blessed to have three amazing full time crit partners as well as two others who do at least one read through for me (soon I will do a post about each of them and how they are crucial to my process because they are AWESOME).

At this stage, usually my three core critters have looked at my manuscript and have sent me back their suggestions.  When their comments come in, I am usually distanced enough from my WIP to be able to look at their comments objectively and not end up in a ball in the corner weeping, and moaning and gnashing my teeth. I read through each one as they come back to me and make the changes that resonated the most with me right away. If I'm unsure of a suggestion or don't completely agree, I'll wait for the other two crits to come in before I seriously think about changing those things. If one of the other crits come back saying something similar to the first I'll fix it, but if there isn't a seconded comment, I won't.

Once I've gone through and made critter suggested changes, I'll usually do my own complete read through of the manuscript and jot down notes to myself about where I feel like it's not flowing, about scenes that I may need to cut out or add, and about the overall unity of the piece. I did some of this in the first revision, but now that I've had some time away from my manuscript, I see issues that I didn't the first time. This is also where I start actively looking for symbolism, tone and theme--which occurs of it's own accord during drafting and now is there, but not highlighted enough. I start thinking about how I can make those things stronger and making notes about it. This takes weeks...that's right...I said weeks. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is a strong manuscript. At this stage my manuscript is kind of like a landscape painting. All of the objects are in it and it's colored in with all the appropriate colors, but it's lacking texture and depth, so I aim to add it here.

I ask myself several questions about each chapter:

Is there a clear cut reason for this chapter to remain in the manuscript?

Does each chapter offer a strong foundation for the chapter that follows it?

Are my plot and character arcs complete?

Is there an obvious tone to what I've written that's united across chapters?

Have I foreshadowed upcoming events, but not given them away?

Is my character relatable and is her voice strong as is?

Have I clearly established what my character wants and what she has to overcome to get it?

Are all of my characters reacting/acting in ways that are consistent with who they are?

If there's romance, have I woven it in in a plausible way? Is there a strong connection between my characters?

Is my villian a big enough opposing force? Have I made him human enough? (all bad is not good in my experience)

If there is back story, is it where it should be and is it absolutely necessary?

Are all of my action scenes visceral and exciting, but utterly believable?

Is there any place where a scene is too long/short?

Once I've answered these questions and made my changes, I'm ready for the lighter end of revisions: line edits, scrutinizing chapter beginning and endings, sentence rhythm and, finally, looking for commonly overused words. AND once I've made those changes I'm usually thoroughly sick of the manuscript and ready to throw it out the window, but hopefully it's a lot tighter and stronger. And I am ready for a whole lot of these:

What about you, what do you look at during revisions?


  1. This is the point I'm up to at the moment. It seems so sane when you write it out like that, but I'm swinging wildly from I'M SO AWESOME, I WILL CONQUER THIS REVISION to WOE IS ME, I SUCK, I WILL NEVER FINISH.

    But other than my neuroses, my process is very similar to yours.

    And yes, looking forward to the cupcakes :)

  2. Interesting, Amy, and helpful too! I think I'm going to use a few of your revision questions during my own revision process!

  3. Beth,

    Lol, I'm just hiding my angst! I am waaaaaaaaay neurotic, trust me and constantly rollercoaster through: I SUCK, I SHOULD NEVER WRITE ANOTHER WORD and OKAY, MAYBE I CAN DO THIS...the latter of which only comes after a large amount of chocolate hits my system which is unfortunate considering that I gain five pounds from said consumption and leave my writer's death spiral only to plunge into an OMG I AM SO FAT RIGHT NOW pity party!


    Make my Friday, why don'tcha!Love that you're using my questions!

  4. Haha, I'm glad I'm not alone!