The Ever-Evolving Revision Process

I got my beta reader feedback for AST!!!

*happy dance*

After my previous post, I completed the line edits of AST and sent it off to one of my CPs. This particular CP hadn't read the previous version, so I was eager to get her thoughts on the manuscript. And on last Friday (June 6, 2014), she sent her notes on AST.

And she didn't hate it! Even better, she liked it overall. But the best part? She had great thoughts for improvement, which means I'm diving back into revisions!

I know I talk about revision a lot, but I truly think they deserves the space. Your mileage may vary, but for me, I can draft a novel in about 30 days (I am, after all, a NaNo gal) but then I spend months and month refining my stories (I'm into month seven for AST). As such, I find so much value in continually honing my revision technique and trying new things. Sometimes, the revision process from draft to draft of the same novel looks vastly different.

For the third draft of AST (the one I received feedback on), I took a very slow but deep approach to my revisions. With that draft, because I had such massive changes to make, I revised with a printed version of my MS. I split the book up by POV, and I went through each chapter multiple times.

The first step with each chapter was to read through what I had and compare it to what it needed to be. Depending on how much work was required to bring the chapter up to speed, I either: wrote the chapter over from scratch, fixed big sections of the chapter in Scrivener, or I went through with a red pen and fixed things (if problems were smaller in scale).

After getting the chapter where it needed to be, I printed it again. Each week, I saved my printed chapters and line edited the lot on Sundays. This allowed me not only to catch errors introduced by typing new text but also allowed me to read through new prose after it had "cooled" a bit to ensure it was still as good as I thought it was while drafting.

As you can probably imagine, going through each chapter THREE times was very time consuming. However, based on my CP feedback, I'd say it paid off.

While this method was very effective (and highly recommended if you have huge changes to make throughout your whole MS and have the patience to do this), I'm not following this method at all for draft four.

The changes I need to make for draft four are relative minor compared to what I did with draft three. As such, they require a completely different style of editing. Here is my revision process for a refining-style revision (as opposed to an overhaul).

Step 1: Assess CP Feedback

The first step was to go through the five pages of comments from my CP and make note of what I wanted to incorporate and how.

Step 2: Notebook Brainstorming

You may remember from my series of NaNoWriMo posts this past year that I've taken to doing all my novel brainstorming and scene sketching in a spiral notebook. Well, I dug out my AST notebook and wrote out my plan for revision and brainstormed ideas on how to incorporate the beta reader feedback.

Step 3: Index cards!

I'm a bit obsessed with color coded index cards. I use them for all my revisions. This time, for each big change I wrote down in my notebook, I created a sticky note and attached it to the index card for the scene in which the change would take place.

Step 4: Big Changes

With my index cards in hand, I jumped from scene to scene, skipping all those that had no sticky notes on them. I've completed this with my thief POV so far, and it's been cool to jump around and just fix the big issues. It's much faster than having to read every single chapter.

Step 5: Checklist Changes

For each POV, I also created a general checklist of things that need to be changed throughout the MS. These changes include things like adding more world building/setting into each chapter (my achilles heel -- I tend to neglect setting a bit). For this step, I'll go through every chapter (separated by POV again) and fine tune the characters and voice.

Note: I'm doing this "on screen" in Scrivener rather than printing the MS again.

Step 6: The Kindle Test

Finally, once I've completed all the steps for both POVs, I'll take a few days off and then put AST on my Kindle to read the whole story in order (with the two POVs put back in their normal order). If the MS passes the "reading" test, I'll send it off to my CPs.

And then it's more nervous waiting to see if they give me the green light to query!

You tell me, do you revise differently based on how close the MS is to where you want it? What are your go-to methods for big revisions versus fine tuning?