Hello lovelies and welcome back to the blog.
We’ve been talking about drafting your novels and specifically about getting through multiple drafts of your novel (if that’s your jam). What we’re really talking about is the process of revising your novel. Revising sounded too much like editing for my liking when I first started doing it, and editing just sounds awful and scary when you don’t know what you’re doing. I started calling it writing another draft and that was somehow easier to initially bear than editing or revising.
The good news is that there is a way to go about getting your revisions done with minimal backtracking and without having to worry about too many things at each stage. Today, I’m going to tell you about how to do your revisions in a way that makes sense and will lead you to less and less revisions with each pass. You can use this method whether you want to write in one draft or in multiple drafts. You are going to work from big problems to small problems. If you like my method, you can then download a free checklist at the end of the blog post. So let’s dive in.
Make a Solid First Draft
When you wrote your draft, you likely made changes while you were drafting. Messy drafters like myself will leave questions during scenes, not name certain places, or won’t have large chunks of text figured out. I have things that I already know aren’t working or need to be addressed even before I even do my first read-through. If you edit as you go, you may be fixing these little inconsistencies while you’re drafting, but if you’re fast drafting, you probably won’t. First things first, do a quick spelling and grammar pass, (add your funky character names in so it doesn’t flag them every time) and then make those changes you already know need to be changed. Give yourself the benefit of a solid first draft to work with.
Do a Full Read-Through
When you have a solid First Draft, do a full read-through of your novel. Take notes, either directly onto the page, or in a separate notebook. You can write down anything and everything you notice, but pay particular attention to big things that don’t work. These are things like plot holes that break your story, character inconsistencies, places where the character arc moments and setting descriptors can be improved.
You can think of it much like a kitchen renovation. You aren’t going to paint your walls before you get your old electrical wiring up to code behind those walls. You don’t want to go sweeping and mopping a floor before the wall gets busted out right beside it to make room for a new dining space. The paint and the sweeping can wait until the big stuff gets done first.
In the same way, while you may have clunky prose or have changed a word during your grammar check that made your sentence no longer make sense, you are likely going to make more sweeping changes across the board, and changing the small stuff now will only be doing work on stuff that may not even make it into a final scene.
Work Through Your Edits from Biggest Problems to Smallest.
You could, of course, start on page one and make every single imaginable change from there straight through. But that’s very likely to bog you down and have you doing more work than is necessary. Again, you want to tackle your revisions in a way that makes sense. I’m recommending starting with the big picture. In this case, you want to tackle things that are changes that need to be made in multiple places throughout your book, or changes that are structural. Things for your characters or settings that need to be made clearer or more enhanced. Then work through medium level scenes. Consistent things, especially with characters and places. Last, work through your manuscript with any other low level things that need doing, including another spelling and grammar pass to ensure you’re using the same capitalization, spelling of names, etc.
Other Passes As Desired
You can make as many passes as you want to when revising your manuscript. Other passes you might make include Alpha and Beta readers, Critique Partners, your Agent, an actual Editor for Developmental Editing, Copy Editing, Line Editing, or Proofreading, reading your manuscript out loud to yourself, a partner, friend, or animal, and having a computer read your manuscript to you while you follow along.
If you love these tips, I have this entire post as an easy to use printable checklist! If you want it, it’s totally free!