Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday- Revising

This week's YA Highway Road Trip topic: For many, December is a post-NaNoWriMo revision haze! How do you approach editing/revising? Any tips or tricks or resources you can share?

Like the writing process, revising and editing are not one size fits all. Given that, here are a few things that work for me.

Revising and editing as I go:

I know this is contrary to the idea of NaNo and the writing advice and style of many others, but I do a little of everything, from big revisions to tiny edits as I go.

Not that it's perfect when I reach the end of the first draft. It's still rough. And I often end up chucking scenes that I've spent a great deal of time on.

I don't do it for efficiency. I do it because it feels organic to how the story is coming out of me. Mulling over a certain scene until it feels just right may give me insights on a character or give me some clue of where to go next with the plot. Even the stuff that gets cut or rewritten later is still part of what gets me through the story and makes it come right in the end.

Getting some perspective:

Putting some distance between me and my rough draft is a necessity for me, though it can take different forms:

-Sometimes, though rarely, a complete break from the work.
-Sometimes reading a book about writing, maybe in what I feel might be a weak area for that book.   
-Sometimes reading comp books to make sure my slant is different enough.
-Sometimes more research to beef up the book with during revisions.
-Sometimes, most often, getting critique partners and/or beta readers to read the book (though this often happens while I'm writing the first draft)

For big revisions, tug on the string to see what unravels:

I can't remember where I read this idea, but it's my favorite revising advice.

Changes have a domino effect in a story. Making revisions means seeing all those changes, both the obvious and the subtle.

So, I tug on the string and make a list of the changes. Then I go through and do them. I still miss things, but read throughs will take care of that. Meanwhile, I don't feel as disjointed as I make major changes.

I also have an overall list of changes needed, which gets added to along the way. I generally do the biggest changes first then work my way to the smallest.

Out Loud Read Throughs:

As the story begins to solidify, I start to do read throughs. Reading out loud. Again, I try to tap into the organic part of the process. If I get hung up on a part, it might mean that scene just needs tweaking, or it might be a sign of bigger problems. After four or five read throughs, I'm often to the point where I can do it in one sitting (most of the time not literally one sitting, but in a few hunks of time, whatever my schedule will allow). This is when I get a sense of the whole and start to feel like its done.

What about You? What is your revision process? Best nugget of revision wisdom?


  1. I always feel silly when I read out loud, but it totally helps. I feel less silly when my dog is in the room. :)

  2. I find putting distance between myself and the story is essential so I don't get completely worn out.

  3. I'm bad about doing the out-loud read-throughs. I really ought to do that more, at least as a last pass!

  4. Reading out loud can be painful (it takes so much time!) but oh man is it helpful. And I love what you said about using edit-as-you-go to find out more about characters. I think I always end up with a ridiculous word count because I just let myself write, even on the tangents, in the first draft. Even if those little side notes get cut, it adds to my own understanding of the story and the characters. It all helps, right?

  5. Organic - yes indeed. I revise and edit as I go as well. When not in a NaNo situation, I usually will re-read what I've written the day before and make little tweaks. Reading out loud once I feel like I have a complete version is really important to my process, too.

  6. I love the idea of tugging on the string! I hadn't heard of that before. And yay for reading it out loud! I catch so many plot and grammatical errors that way.

  7. Yay for out-loud read throughs! That's one of my favorites tricks for editing. My eyes start to miss things when I read the same section over and over, but my ears will catch the mistakes.