Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What's Your Revising Process?

I think I'm a bit of an anomaly, in that I love revising. First drafts are painful to slog through, but, the minute I finish my first draft, my heart gets all bouncy and I get annoyingly excited, because I know this is the good part. This is when I'll really get to know my characters, when small things will get shuffled around until they make sense, themes will emerge, and all the little subtleties will start to come through. It's just so... addictive and rewarding! Sure, by the time I've done my 4th revision, I'm not as excited about it, but, for now, it's yaysville.

Here's my process:

1. Buy a binder
2. Print out my draft
3. Buy a hole punch (because I accidentally left mine behind when we moved).
4. Punch holes in the papers
5. Put the papers in the binder
6. Create a reference sheet for every aspect of the story. Each character gets a sheet, where I list their qualities and quirks. I have a sheet for dialect. A sheet mapping out each location. Etc.
7. I skim through my work and write a sheet of general notes that I need to address (Inconsistencies, stuff that needs to be more present throughout the story, etc.)
8. I start revising, one page at a time. When stuff needs to be rewritten, I insert hand-written revisions into the binder. (There are a ton of them for my current project). Something about handwriting them forces me to really pay attention to what I'm writing and connect with it on a physical level. Every time an issue comes up, I add it to the general notes sheet.
9. I use sticky notes to create reminders for myself within the story. Oh, I love sticky notes. Sticky notes make my life amazing.
10. I end up with a very messy, very wonderful binder and a story with logical transitions and character motivations (in theory). My last step is to type it all up, from scratch, paying special attention to grammar and prose. It's at this point that I'm finally ready to send it out to readers for feedback. Then... more revisions! Yay!

I always end up with more words after revision than before. Rough drafts are like complex outlines to me. Most of the description doesn't happen until revision. Same with character intricacies. I'm not one of those people who has to cut away with every revision. If I did that, there'd barely be any story at all!

What about you? Do later drafts end up longer than earlier ones? Do you like revising, or is the bulk of your enthusiasm for the first draft? Have you developed a complicated process that works for you?


  1. I love revisions. I have a similar approach to yours, but instead of binding it I use index cards and paper clips. Each scene gets an index card, and each chapter is clipped with the scene's cards. (the index cards have short descriptions for what happens in the scene) It gives a very visual representation of what I have and where needs to be smoothed out. Then as I work I move the chapters between two folders -- one for completed stuff, and one for stuff to be worked on. :)

    And all that comes after reading the MS and making notes on plot holes and inconsistencies I notice that way. lol

  2. I enjoy the initial draft best. I dread the revision process. Maybe if I adapted a different process, I'd not dread it so much.

  3. I'm the same way with post-its. The world is just a little brighter. I haven't finished anything big, but short stories become unrecognizable, both with view and content.

  4. I love revisions, too. I tend to write shorter, and then have to add stuff later--but that's fine with me. I feel like once I have a completed draft, I can breathe because I have something to work with then. But plugging through and getting that first draft done is sometimes difficult for me.

    I'm still working on finding a revision process that really works for me, but what I do now is pretty similar to yours.

  5. I do love revisions too. I love rereading and tweaking and making one word say five. And I especially love the unexpected things that come out in revisions. I set a lot of deadlines, but I actually have been looking to try some of the things you mentioned for whenever I finish round one of my current WIP. I bookmarked you! Thanks!