Thoughts on revising

If I had more time, maybe I could get this guy to do my revisions for me.

I’m just about done with revisions to Hellforged. Although I enjoy editing my work, it’s never a smooth, straightforward process. I love thinking through changes to a scene, but then sometimes I procrastinate like crazy over actually writing it. I can get hung up, too, on giving a scene just one more polish, spending more time on it than (if I’m being objective) it actually needs. Here are a few thoughts I’ve had during the revision process this time around.

Let your editor’s (or critique partner’s) comments sit for a few days before you decide how to deal with them. Whether you agree with your editor’s suggestions or feel resistent to them, give them a few days to percolate (if you’ve got time). I was lucky with Hellforged—my editor liked the manuscript and had only a few suggestions. All of her suggestions were helpful, and the biggest one was along the same lines as what I was already thinking. To make those revisions work, though, I need a few days of turning them over in my mind before I start implementing them.

Read the whole novel (or story) through before tackling specific edits. This makes your story fresh in your mind again, and it helps you see how you can make the necessary changes. I make minor tweaks as I go along, and I also take notes. It saves me from rewriting a scene on page 27 and then realizing later that my changes won’t work because of something on page 134.

Save the pre-edited manuscript. It’s a lot easier to experiment with a scene when you know that there’s a copy of the existing scene safely tucked away somewhere. (Preferably several somewheres—you do save your files in at least three places, right? I save files on my desktop, my laptop, a flash drive, and online.)

Just do it. I go through a lot of preparation before I start in on edits, but at some point you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and plunge in. You never know if the changes you’re planning will work until you write them. I can sit around thinking and planning and sketching out notes for days—but thoughts and plans and sketches are only the context of the story. To make a scene work, you have to write the damn thing.

Pull the scene out of the story. I write my first draft in individual scenes and chapters, each in its own file. It’s easier for me to write a whole novel by breaking it into smaller chunks.  After that draft, I put everything together into one big file and work on the whole manuscript. When I’m revising, I sometimes find it helpful to copy the scene I’m working on and paste it into its own file. Just like in the first draft, it feels easier to handle that way. When I’m done, I paste the revised scene into the manuscript, make sure it fits what comes before and after, and move on.

Learn to let go. For me, maybe the hardest part of revising is saying, “I’m done.”  I always want to do a couple of tweaks here, a little more polishing there. And I’m just so reluctant to leave the world of my story. Deadlines help. So does moving on to a new project, and I’m jumping right in to Vicky 3. So I’m not leaving Vicky’s world; I’m moving forward in her story. And I can do that only after I’ve finished this installment.

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About nancyholzner


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