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It’s no secret to seasoned writers that revision is tough. Being a clueless beginner, I celebrated too early upon finishing the first draft of my YA novel last April, thinking that the hard part was over. Only when I began revising did I realize how terribly wrong I was.
Working with insightful critique partners the past months, it hit me how much work my manuscript needed. It wasn’t just my tendency to show and tell that was the problem, my story had holes and major flaws that needed to be fixed. Not knowing how resolve these, I grew easily frustrated and decided to take some time before tackling my draft.
I finally went back to revising yesterday, quite expecting that things would go downhill. To my surprise, I was actually productive, even though I had to spend literally the whole day just to make a dent in my revision. Along the way, I learned a few strategies that really helped.
List the things that you have to work on.
It’s so much easier to tackle revisions when you have an itemized list that you need to work through and that you can cross off later on. In my case, I referred to the comments I received from my critique partners and made sure to resolve each and everyone of them.
Figure out each scene’s purpose.
Plotters probably do this before writing the first draft but for pantsers like me, some reorganization is much needed. Figuring out each scene’s purpose helps to find those scenes that actually serve no purpose so that you can either cut them out or rewrite them.
Keep a character master sheet.
I’ve made a google docs sheet with all the characters indexed on one column with all their attributes, physical appearance and personality, in another column so I can be consistent with my details and with the way my character acts as I revise.
Utilize a writing thesaurus.
Despite my attempts at writing, I’ve never been particularly good at using words like some talented writers just are. I’m not descriptive enough and tend to be too vague. So I was really grateful when I discovered these helpful tools:
If you’re ever at a loss to show how the character is feeling at the moment, let The Emotion Thesaurus be your guide. Meanwhile, The Negative Trait Thesaurus and The Positive Trait Thesaurus can help you determine the associated attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and emotions behind your character’s personality. These books have been a great resource to me so far so definitely check them out.
Find writing buddies.
This is something I realized I really needed. It’s been hard working on revision and not talking to anyone about them. I constantly wish I knew more fellow writers who are in the same pickle and who I can chat with when I’m troubled by a particular scene or when I fix a plot hole. With that, I just want to do a call out: If you’re interested in being writing buddies, please hit me up on Twitter or leave a comment!
One of the biggest reason I loved NaNo was because of the writing buddies! It’s so motivating right??! And I totally love and agree with your list here *nods* EDITING IS REALLY HARD. And rewriting and gahhhh. I’ve got a swiss cheese memory, so when I’m in edits my entire computer screen is covered in those desktop sticky-notes with consistency details. xD
Great post! I’m definitely looking into finding some writing buddies for NaNo this year. I think if I attempt to do it alone, I’ll just give up after a couple of days. I’m also a pantser, so I should probably take a close look at scene purpose if I actually manage to finish a book and need to edit it.
LOVE ALL THOSE TIPS! I’m planning on editing my “novel” this coming months and I really need something to push me hard to finally do it! Would you like to be writing buddies? :)
Revisions are the bane of any writer’s life, I would expect. I used to be a pantser, but found that plotting beforehand, even if it’s a really loose outline can help you heaps. It also keeps you focused, while giving you time to explore. As for revision I guess my only tip is to be patient with yourself because it’s going to take time to revise and make your story truly shine.
I had a mini writing session today and although I’m not revising I’ve come up with a new project that I’m quite excited to work on (finding the time, however, to do so is another thing). I think there’s a lot of merit to having writer-friends if only because you’re all technically in the same boat! Hope revising goes well for you (and you find lots of people who are revising too and who can help) and y’know can’t wait to see more of your manuscript on the blog (if that’ll happen?) and GOOD LUCK. You’re doing awesome :)
These sound like wonderful tips, Hazel! Good to hear revisions are going well, it sounds like you’ve learned a lot over the past year! Someone posted today about NaNo and how they’re getting ready and it made me think about maybe joining this year. Who knows? ;) I can’t assist you in the writer buddy department, but if you need a beta, I’d be happy to help. Happy writing!
Oooh I think keeping a character master sheet is an awesome tip! I haven’t even thought of this so thanks Hazel! I’ll keep this in mind if I ever start writing. I think that really helps you organize your characters especially if you have A LOT of supporting characters. I think finding writing buddies is great too because you can both help motivate each other.
This is really helpful! Like everybody else in this world I’ve always thought about writing a book and actually did a very rough outline a few months ago. I’m still super stuck in the planning stage though, but if I ever get to actually writing I’ll definitely check out the emotion and traits books!
These are so, so helpful! I haven’t been writing all that much lately (sadly), but I do intend to dive back into it before the year ends. Good luck with the revisions on your MS!!
Oh no, you shouldn’t have mentioned a spreadsheet – as soon as you mentioned it, I opened up an Excel sheet and am reading to catalogue my characters even further. Sure, this is a good thing, but I’m slightly addicted to Excel at this point…
I finally finished first drafts of two stories in the past couple of years and often ignore their revising in favor of the stories that aren’t finished yet, although I am finding revision to be a nice change of pace every once in a while. Good luck with yours!
I suddenly remembered a conversation I’ve had with these two authors on Twitter, where they felt that “smirk” and “sneer” was an odd thing to do in YA novels, or at least it gets in their nerves when it is used constantly. You’re so great with time management, Hazel… GRANT ME SOME OF YOUR POWER!!!
YES, writing buddies are so important. I love my writing buddies <3 And I do like lists, so I end up writing MULTIPLE lists of the things I need to work on, the important plot information…it's a work in progress, for sure :)
Great tips, Hazel. It’s so great that you’re revising your novel and I wish you the best of luck with it! Another thing I’d add is to not be afraid to scrap the whole thing. I had to scrap the whole 50k of my sci-fi novel’s first draft because as much as the premise had potential, no amount of rearranging sentences and changing words would help. It came out a lot better when I completely rewrote it and it even got fleshed out to 90k. Scrapping so many words is scary, but it’s so worth it.