If you’re following along, you’re going to want to make sure to do Part One of the revision process before you tackle this section. So after a week full of snow days and cabin fevered kids and husband (who was undoubtedly worse than the kids), it took me longer to get to phase two of my revision plan than I expected. But alas, I finished the next step. This is called the notecard phase. This is when you go through all the notes you made on your character/plot/setting pieces of paper and turn each one of those into a notecard with a corresponding chapter. Then I went through my edit letter from my agent and made individual notecards for her notes too. In the end, my table at Barnes & Noble looked like this and I had over a 100 cards: 80% of my notecards were plot related, but then I did have some that were character related as well, which brought on some character worksheets that I didn’t originally think I was going to do. I ended up creating in-depth bios with 3 minor characters that probably won’t make it into the story, but will absolutely affect the way I write them. I needed a better handle on their motivations and this is the best way to do that. I did it freehand and just sketched out their lives. It doesn’t have to be pretty, because it’s not going in the book. It’s just for you to get to know your character more. In doing this, one of my characters is changing a lot, which I like! Your notecards will be detailed and you’ll have several for each chapter, so just put them in chronological order. Or sometimes your notecard will just be you telling yourself this section sucks and you can do better: Then I got all my notecards and organized them and put them in a nifty little box because I’m awesome like that and get a weird pleasure out of seeing things in order. This urge for order is unfortunately compartmentalized just to the professional side of my life and does not lend itself to house cleaning, but wouldn’t it be awesome if it did? I would basically be a super hero. So that concludes the getting organized section of the revision process! Now on for Phase Three… the fun part when you get to actually start revising on the page! 🙂
My fabulous agent Kirsten did not miss a beat and just days after signing me, she spit out a pretty epic edit letter.
I’m not going to lie, when I read it I had a mixture of feeling like this:
and then this:
She had some very specific things she’d like to see addressed and although they aren’t huge, they are the kind of changes that have ripple effects. In other words, the first half of the book is going to get a pretty serious overhaul.
So how do you even begin to tackle a revision based on an edit letter?
Here is what I decided to do, part one.
First off, don’t do anything for a day or two. Keep reading the edit letter and start revising in your mind. I’m serious about this one. Just stew on it for a day or two.
For practical purposes, I pulled my revision plan together from three sources: the venerable Susan Dennard who’s writing advice is beyond amazing, Beth Revis who’s writing guide Paper Hearts is a must read for all writers and then one of my CPs Alexa Donne who has some pretty kick butt blog posts on revising.
The first thing I did was print out my entire MS and put it in a binder (though it’s also fun to get it bound!) I was trying to save on paper/printing costs, so I shrunk it down to 10pt font and put it in single space. That helped cut down the pages printed by over half. I could do that because I wasn’t actually looking to revise on the page, but just read. I’m sure you could do this just by reading on your computer or maybe transferring it to your Kindle, but I wanted the option of scribbling on the page and I also revise a lot by hand. (Note: you’ll also need to revise your novel in 10pt/single space at the beginning because you’ll want your notes to match up, so keep that in mind.)
I then read my edit letter probably 10-15 times. I wanted to get her suggestions down deep so that as I was reading through, I would know what to look for without having to reference the letter. The same goes for the plot/setting things she pointed out as well.
Then I had a separate blank sheet of paper for every main character (and plot relevant minor character) as well as a page for plot problems and setting problems.
As I read through my entire MS, I was looking for areas where I could deepen a character POV, flesh out a reaction, make the characters fuller. Instead of marking the manuscript, I would just mark it on the corresponding sheet. With plot/setting, I was looking at where I needed to implement my agent’s suggestions and would mark it down on the sheet. I also would mark paragraphs/dialogue in the MS that I didn’t like with “re-work.”
For example, on my plot page, I would write: “On page 47, get rid of “Roger” character and replace with Liam to tie in better with the Initiative.” For a character, I would write down, “Soften the Senator’s reaction on page 6, give him a moment where he is kinder to Willow in this scene.”
Note that I didn’t actually do any revising yet, I just plotted out on a broad scale where I would revise things.
So that is part one!
I’m writing this blog series as I go, so I’ll know what worked and what didn’t.
Up next on my plan? NOTECARDS 🙂