"You can always edit a bad page. You can't edit a blank page." - Jodi Picoult
Wow, such wise words. Writing a book is hard, but the editing phase? It's a doozy!
For my most recent book, Oath of Flame, I had a crazy revision timeline. I ended up adding 30,000 words to the story in just 7 days. I literally only stopped revising to eat and sleep.
Since I don't recommend pushing yourself to the brink of insanity by repeating my mistakes, I decided to share a GOOD revisions approach for your next novel. ;)
So here we go!
1. Read your novel from beginning to end.
This is really important. Before you can move into revisions, you have to see your project as a whole. You've spent the last few months (or however long drafting takes you) working on the story scene by scene. Now it's time to see it as a full story. Reading it through from beginning to end will help you see what's working and what's not. Don't revise anything during this step. Just take notes about what you're reading. You'll come back to it in step 2!
2. Make a list.
Take the notes you made in step 1 and make an action plan. Make a list of all the plot points that need to be revised (or character development, missing scenes, subplots, etc.) and brainstorm ideas to fix them. If you're an under-writer like me, you'll probably have a list of scenes that you'll want to add during revisions. Or if you've an over-writer, analyze each scene and determine what it does for your overall narrative. If it's fluff, consider cutting it.
When I'm considering overall plot arcs, I like to use a method by James Scott Bell called Super Structure. It's outlined in his book Super Structure: the Key to Unleashing the Power of Story. It's a great read, and it's pretty cheap on Amazon! The story signposts he uses have been instrumental in helping me understand how stories function. You can also use the Save the Cat method, or whatever plot method works best for you.
For my most recent book, my first draft came in at about 50,000 words. I had a goal of 70,000-80,000 words, so I knew there was a LOT of story that needed to be added.
3. Rewrite #1.
Now it's time for your first rewrite! Go through your list and address everything you wrote down. Make some time for this step. It takes longer than you think! (That was my mistake with my last book.)
4. Get a second opinion.
Once I've gone through my first round of revisions, this is where I ask for help. I've been working on this story for so long and I can no longer look at it without a bias. So it's time to bring in the big guns.
Depending on your budget and comfort level, your second opinion can come in the form of a professional developmental editor (my preferred choice) or you can use beta readers or even friends and family. The important thing is to get an outside perspective of someone who can tell you what's working and what isn't.
My dev editor, Alex, is amazing at looking through my draft and telling me exactly what's working and what isn't, both at the high level and within the pages themselves. She's invaluable to my process!
During her edit on my most recent novel, Oath of Flame, she told me very nicely that my love interest was shifty and unrelatable. Because of her recommendations, I ended up adding a second love interest to add some drama and a little love triangle. She also told me that my subplots weren't carried all the way through the story, which led to me adding a TON of hints and clues throughout the first part of the novel.
5. Revision #2: time to make more changes!
Now that you've had some different eyes on your story, you've probably gotten a ton of feedback to work through.
*An important note here: story is subjective. Everyone experiences it differently and everyone will have different opinions about how to fix a story. But YOU as the author have the final say. Take all advice with a grain of salt and really listen to your gut. If it feels right to your story (and especially if multiple beta readers mention it), then make the change.*
Go through and make the changes you feel are necessary to strengthen your novel, and then it's time to move on to the last step in the revision process.
6. Read it aloud.
The final step in the revision process is also the most important, in my opinion. READ IT ALOUD. Either read it aloud yourself or you can have Microsoft Word read it to you. Listening to your story will help you catch any typos that snuck through, awkward dialogue, or descriptions that feel out of place. It's a great last check before you call your story done!
The revision process can be daunting, but it's important to remember that it's an essential part of the writing process. By taking your time and paying attention to the details, you can turn a good novel into a great one.
Have you ever gone through the revision process before? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments below!