Friday, November 12, 2010

Inside Elana: Revisions

Okay, we're delving inside Elana again today. It might be messy. Today, I'm letting you see my revision process.

For the sake of clarity, let's establish some vocab.
1. Revision draft = post-first draft, post-beta readers. I usually revise my first draft again (and again and again) myself. Then I send it to my lovelies, who send me all kinds of mean notes as all betas should.

Pre-Revision:
1. I read all my beta's comments, making notes on things that obviously need to be fixed or clarified.

Then I'm ready to really revise. Here's what it looks like:

  • Headphones
  • Pandora
  • Pen in whatever color
  • MS printed out, divided into 3 sections
  • Beta notes on computer screen
  • Notes nearby

Here's what happens:
1. I read my notes and plunge into section 1 of the printed MS, pen in hand. I delete. I reword. I write entire new scenes (by hand). I evaluate word choice. I read out loud for flow. I break up paragraphs. I edit awkward writing. I add/delete details.

2. Pandora blares in the background. Meals may or may not be consumed.

3. When finished with section 1 (usually through the end of Act One), with pages bleeding, I enter all changes into the computer.

4. I save the draft and go watch TV.

5. I repeat this process for section 2 and then section 3.

Note that this does not take only 3 days. More like 30. Or 60. Or forever. Sometimes I can only do a few pages each day because the slashing and rewriting and moving and general smell of holy-crap-I-wrote-this-garbage? is just too much.

But all revisions get done by hand, on paper, and transferred to the computer. Otherwise, I just can't "see" it. You know?

Oh, and then I repeat the entire process again. And again. I am a fast drafter, but that requires a colossal amount of revising. Good thing I don't hate it...

How do you revise your MS?

64 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

I don't have that many beta readers. Usually my critique partners review a few chapters at a time and I revise as I go after reviewing their comments.

But for my first book I did have beta readers and did do two major revisions where I printed the manuscript and marked areas to revise. Then once it got closer to being done I used your fabulous revise a manuscript in 30 days method. I've done that about 4 times on that manuscript focusing on cutting the word count.

Congrats BTW. I read that your book was picked to be a crossover book. Did we already know that?

Christine Danek said...

Thanks for sharing this. I thought I really screwed things up with my crappy first draft, and now it feels like forever going through and making it something. I get a little intimidated when I read how fast others get through the whole process. Your process seems more realistic.
Thanks.

kellyhashway said...

I'm a revise as I draft person, so the actually drafting takes me more time. I never truly have a first draft, but this is what works for me. I revise until my eyes bleed. Then I put it away and work on something else. After time, I revise again and send to my critique group. Then it's back to more revising. And then some more. And then some more...

salarsenッ said...

You've written something similar to this before--but longer. hah

I love this advice. The whole handwriting thing sounds rough, though. I tried it. I jotted down more notes and dittos than actual revisions I'd use.

Printing it out is important. It gives my eyes a different view. Sounds silly but it does work.

Candyland said...

Well, currently, I'm pretending to be you through this whole process and doing it as you would. It may or may not be working, but i'm trying not to over think and just do.

I shall have a progress report to you by the end of the weekend :)

Theresa Milstein said...

Thanks for letting us know how you revise.

I dont hand do revisions, but I probably should. It is harder to see the mistakes on the computer.

For me, I revise a bunch, give to betas, and revise as they give me feedback. I try to do two read alouds - the first before my critique partners get the manuscript and then when I think I'm in the final stage after feedback.

Magan said...

I just started printing my second draft to look at it, edit that. Then one of my new crit partners and I are sending eachother our MS's chapter by chapter and making notes. It's definitely differant than my firs MS. If it wasn't for awesome authors,like you Elana, I wouldn't have dreamed of printing out my MS or reading it out loud. I do look like a weirdo sitting in the cafeteria at work, reading out loud about aliens...but people will get over it...hopefully.

Matthew Rush said...

This is my first novel. So I'm still working that out.

lynnrush said...

Wow. I love hearing about how you revise. That's quit a process. I can relate to the holy-crap-I-wrote-this-garbage thoughts. . . for sure!!!

I don't always print out the MS for revisions. But I usually go through it with different sets of eyes. Like, the first time I read it after the first draft, I'm just reading...making some notes/comments about how it is flowing well, or totally not working. Then go back and start fixing things along that line.

Another read is about the characters. Really fleshing them out. After some time away from the MS, I'll go back and flesh out the setting/details.

Then it's off to the crit partners. Once I get it back, I'll go through it several more times taking in their suggestions. I'm a fast drafter as well, but I love delving into the editing part. It's great fun!

Thanks for sharing your process with us!

Happy Friday!!!

Alison Stevens said...

Thanks for sharing this Elana. It seems like a good way to revise, with a realistic time frame.

My process (which, like Matt, I'm still working out) involves hand-writing changes. But I can't listen to music because I am WAY too easily distracted by lyrics, lovely melodies, and great percussion (not to mention that we can't get Pandora where I live). :(

But with the WIP I'm revising at the moment, I decided the first half was complete crap, so I tossed it and started from scratch. That part has been done on the computer. I'll go back to hand-editing later.

Jen Daiker said...

Have you been reading my mind again? Next week I talk all about revisions and each step, we must be on the same wave lenght.

You seriously could not have posted this at a more appropriate time. I was in need of a swift kick in the tush since the past two days I've been busy with other things. Tonight I'll be incorporating your revisions!

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

I love revising.it's so intense and I really see the book changing. So fun.

Pam Torres said...

Always great to learn about your process. Ordered your book! Looking forward to reading Jen's blogs next week. Dumb question: What's the difference between "crit partners" and "beta readers"?

Bish Denham said...

This sounds very similar to the way I am currently working. I have to have it all out in front of me too tons of handwritten notes. And just yesterday have begun the actually process of the rewrite.

Karen Lange said...

Sounds like a good plan. When I revise, I do it in a similar manner. Stepping away is essential for me. Usually have Diet Coke and snacks handy too.
Happy weekend,
Karen

Ishta Mercurio said...

Oh, awesome process!

I haven't had the pleasure/torture of revising a novel yet, but I've revised lots and lots of picture books, in the same way. I draft it, then I revise it a few times, then I send it to my critters, then I type in all kinds of alternatives in parentheses, then I print it and write all over it (and often on the back of it), then I type in the changes, then I send it back to my critters.

Drafting is the fun part, but I like the work of revising too. I like watching my pile of poo turn into beautiful compost.

Kerri C at CK Farm said...

Wow what a process. Revisions are intense. I'm learning to go with my gut instead of second guessing myself. Usually what my gut tells me is what a beta tells me also. It's a WIP lol.

B.E. Sanderson said...

For me, revisions are usually me printing off my manuscript chapter by chapter, red-inking the heck out of it - complete with scribbled notes and re-written scenes in a separate notebook. Then chapter by chapter, I enter my edits into the working copy draft on the computer. I write and revise until I feel I've gone as far as I can go by myself before I let anyone else read it. Then I tweak based on their comments. Or, I rewrite the whole damn thing if their comments lead me to believe the work needs it.

And yay for Pandora. I'm not sure how I wrote before I found it. There's nothing like slapping on the headphones and listening to a station designed for the mood of the book I'm writing.

Falen (Sarah Ahiers) said...

i'm like you, i need to do it on paper. I can maybe do a quick edit on the computer, checking for typos and things that just make no sense, but that's about it.

I even split my novel up into chunks as well! though my last novel was in 4 chunks since it was so big

Liz Fichera said...

I only ever revert to writing by hand when I have writer's block. My handwriting has become so horrible, I usually try to avoid it at all costs!

Renae said...

I love your process. I have to print out my manuscript during revisions otherwise I miss the dumbest mistakes. There's just something about printing it out on paper and having at it with my favorite purple pen.

Michelle McLean said...

I always have at least one print out revision as well where I attack my ms with a very red pen. It's just easier to spot the mistakes on paper for some reason...

Melissa said...

My CPs read my chapters as I write them. They let me know if things make sense and if they like how the story is progressing. Plus they act as cheer leaders. For revising, I work on a chapter (on the computer, can't do it on paper) and send the chapters back to them. They read and point out things that may be confusing, things that need to be clarified, or let me know if there's any awkward wording. I make the changes. When I'm done with the story, then they're going to do line edits with me.

Joanna St. James said...

I always write longhand, then i edit and revise when I type after that I give it one more look over then I send it out to the cps and give it a forced rest. After that I make my own changes and then incorporate the cps observations too.
After one last looksie its off to the eds or agents

Christine Fonseca said...

Can't.Stop.Laughing...cause yea, I can picture this whole thing. Seems strangely familiar. Keep it up, cause it obviously works for you!

Angela Felsted said...

That's impressive that you listen to music while revising, I couldn't do it, too distracting.

And I agree that it helps to write things out by hand. It's slower but helps my thoughts slow down so that I feel less pressed and stressed about what I'm writing. It's almost poetic, writing like that.

Mary said...

This is a very timely post for me. I am just getting ready to revise, again. This time, I am taking a different approach, and highlighting some pronouns and my adjectives.

I might try a few things from what you do to see how it works. Thanks for sharing!

VR Barkowski said...

The bulk of my editing is done on hard copy while snuggled up on my über comfortable, editing bed (two down comforters, silk pillows to cry into, and layered with plush throws to warm my cold and heartless internal editor). I call this process "bediting" and it involves not only a merciless red pen but reading everything I write into a digital recorder and playing it back to hear the flow. This revise/"bedit" process is repeated dozens of times and incorporates CP feedback before the ms ever makes beta stage.

No music for me. I'm too easily distracted. The music comes AFTER the edits as a reward. :)

Meredith said...

I have to print it out on paper, too, and use a red pen to mark it up. It makes everything so much easier to see, and it makes me feel more objective, too, somehow. And yay for Pandora!

Katie said...

I could never do it by hand. I break the manuscript into 3 acts and import each one separately into Scrivener. Then, I study my screenwriting manual as to what (for example) act one needs to achieve, and I work on it in scrivy until I love it. Then it goes to a beta and I work on Act 2. Then I get betas Act one notes and revise it (as well as how the new notes might affect act 2). THEN, send act 2 to beta and begin act 3.

Whew! That description even confuses me. And yeah, the last "revision" took 3 months. But it was massive :)

Madeleine said...

Beta notes? I'm intrigued by those.
Sounds like a very productive time. I've been procrastinating.
There's a guest author interview over at mine if you know or don't know Annie Sanders :O)

Tina Lynn said...

Um...I've been thinking about trying the hard copy method, because~for srsly~this revision I'm doing is taking FOREVAR!!! Yeah...*facepalm*

Colene Murphy said...

Neat! I like to get them on paper too and then type them up. It helps more than people would think!
Awesome process. I might have to try out a few things.

Donea Lee said...

Hi Elana - :) I also need to print out my ms. It just seems easier on my eyes. And, funny - it seems a lot of us like our red pens! What I do need to do is actually find some beta readers... (I know, I know...) Currently, it's just my sister who reads all my stuff and she's far too nice about it... Thanks for sharing some great tips!

Rachel said...

I'm finishing my first draft this weekend. Then I will go in next week and tweak some more things here and there, and then start sending to my betas. After that I plan on printing it out, which I've never really done yet, and am excited. I know it will feel "real" then. Of course, then I get to grab a red pen and play sadistic teacher marking my words all up. Fun stuff.
have a great weekend Elana

Jennie Englund said...

Lately, I've become much more chummy with revising. I realized that it's more fun/easier to polish up what's already there then to start from a blank page.

Your process is genius! I've heard that re-formatting font, margins, size all helps critical reading, too.

Best best luck!

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

Wow. I just can't work on paper. I WANT to. But I can't do it. I need to be able to scroll back and add and cut, copy, and paste.

I revise with 3 open windows on my desktop. The draft. A set of CP notes. And a "deleted scenes" file. I scroll through the draft and the CP notes side by side and tackle them one by one (sometimes skipping if I'm not quite sure what to do with the note yet). And if I need to play around with something, I do it in the "deleted scenes file. So funny how we all have such different methods!

Kelly said...

My first draft takes so long because I reread chapters up to my point that I'm writing and revise along the way. So revisions are almost every time I write.
I do think making a hard copy is key to good revisions later. It's easier to "see" plus you see tiny typos too!

Lisa_Gibson said...

I prefer printing things out and reading through them too. I seem to catch so much more that way. Like you, I edit a bunch and then send to betas and critters. :)
Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

Susan R. Mills said...

Our processes sound very similar. I also do it all by hand.

Julie Hedlund said...

I'm so envious of anyone who can listen to music while writing. Silence is best for me - wah!

With my picture books, the revision process varies greatly from book to book. With a rhyming ms, a lot of it is pretty technical - meter, word choice, etc. If it's a story arc issue, I generally make all the changes at once without worrying about meter too much. Then I have to go back in and clean that up. I have one rhyming ms that I've probably revised 100 times - I kid you not.

With prose it depends on the story. I write a couple of drafts and then send it to the critique group. I take their ideas, make more changes and then let it sit some more. I might need to add more meat or kill some darlings then. Generally though, what works best is time and quiet time for thinking. Sometimes I might spend hours working on just a few lines. Painstaking - which is why I enjoy the drafting stage more...

Holly Ruggiero said...

How you many beta-readers do you have? How did you go about finding them.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

That sounds both brilliant and painful. I do almost everything on my computer, but I've been considering printing it out a few times while editing.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Guess I'm a hybrid. I print it out and make notes in the margins which sometimes spill onto the back of the page with drawings. For major changes, I switch to the computer and fix the scene there. I'm always mumbing to myself too.

Alyssa@Teens Read and Write said...

You're very organized. And so much on hard copy. Most of my work is on the computer. Actually, I like revising too. It's always fun to see how I can make it better.

Elana Johnson said...

@Holly: I have about 5. I hung out where writers hung out. Forums and such. Now, I don't go looking for CP's. I have the ones I need. People I email with a lot, people who I know would read for me if I asked them to. So yeah. Hang out where writers hang out, and you'll find some people to crit with.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

First set of revisions comes when I enter it in the computer, as I hand write first. Then I print it out and attack from there. I usually revise as I go, too. A few pages at a time. Then many sweeps of the whole thing.

ali said...

ROFL at that very last line. It's true: You are a very good revisionist. Hey, isn't that, like, a political movement or something?

Oh, hey. Wikipedia tells me it's basically any effort to transform the standard or whatever, and there's even one for what we do!

"Fictional revisionism, the retelling of a story with substantial alterations in character or environment, to "revise" the view shown in the original work"

Okay, so there you go! :D

Krispy said...

I think for general things, I like to look at everything on paper. Like, I'm sorta beta-ing my friend's MS right now, and I had to print it out for note-making / reading. But like for rewriting and rewording and deleting, I like doing on the computer.

Valerie Geary said...

Hmmm... I like this idea of splitting the one, huge manuscript into three, smaller sections. I might be able to trick myself into thinking it's not an insane, out of control, crazy task that way. I'm almost done with a new draft 1...so I'll have to give it a whirl!

Nicole Zoltack said...

I like to print out my ms for the first major revision. It's a long and time-consuming process, much like yours. Every revision thereafter is all done on the computer.

roxy said...

I like revision too much. I revised my first book like 15 times. Now I'm doing two manuscripts simultaneously. It's a deluded sickness, I know, but I think I'm the revision ninja.

Sara B. Larson said...

Wow, that is quite the process! I actually edit better on printed copies, too. I actually enjoy revisions when they're going well--when I can see what I need to do, and feel it getting better. Otherwise, not so much. Thanks for sharing some of the hidden secrets of Elana this week. ;)

Paul Greci said...

I do some of the same, minus the pandora. I usually need it quiet. I love working with hardcopy, spreading 3 or 4 pages out next to each other.

Botanist said...

Fast drafter but don't hate revising? Good for you, Elana. I think I'm at the opposite end of the spectrum - slow to draft and hate revising.

Spooky. I'm in the middle of drafting a blog post on exactly that thought...

Jemi Fraser said...

I printed out a copy of my last ms and was amazed at what I saw that I couldn't see on the computer. I'll definitely be doing that again!

Melissa said...

That sounds more than a little epic but a really good idea! I need to print things out, I think, now that I am FINALLY finished my first draft!

William said...

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Nora MacFarlane said...

I'm impressed! If I had to do my revisions in long hand I'd still be just a reader. I'm like Kelly, I revise as I go -so my first draft is never really my first draft. I'm also amazed at people who can listen to music when they write. I turn on the white-noise machine!

Heather said...

Ahh revision, I love it so. Really, I do! My process is similar to yours. I have a four stage revision process after the first draft. The final stage is my beta readers!

Trisha Wolfe said...

Yup, that pretty much sums it up lol.I like to print mine also and attack it with a red pen, or butcher knife, what ever is closest. Yet it's so important to revise; to print it and read it out loud to see and hear what your readers do. Good stuff, makes me want to edit my MS one last time (not) =)

Donna Hole said...

I'm amazed at the number of Authors who, like me, still do a lot of writing/revising with pen and printed hard copy.

Something about actually "writing" those changes seems to clarify them for me. When I get really stumped on a section, I always sit with a paper notebook and just free write. Maybe its the lack of the backspace and delete key that allows the thoughts to solidify themselves.

Thanks for sharing your process Elana.

.......dhole

L.T. Elliot said...

This seems to me to be a very hands on, effective way of revisions. I like that you read aloud too. It's amazing what changes when you read aloud.

Angela Ackerman said...

This has been a fun week, poking around in your head, seeing your processes. Thanks!


Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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