Sunday, July 18, 2010

Blog Chain - How I Revise

Hey :)  I'm pretty much back on my feet.  I still can't run or do anything too strenuous, but I can at least go get my own groceries, so that's an improvement.  Thanks for all the well wishes.  They really meant a lot.

So I'm back on the blog chain! This chain was brought to us by the ever-awesome Sarah (who deserves a huge round of congratulations for scoring a great agent...I suspect it won't be long before we'll be hearing about her first sale!).  Sarah wants to know:

How do you handle revisions? Do you revise as you're writing, or do you wait until you've gone through beta readers and crit partners to revise? How soon after you finish do you begin your revisions?

I've never been good with crit partners.  Most of my experiences were from bad HS creative writing classes where all the comments either focused on things that didn't matter or were vague enough to be worthless.  So up until about a year ago, I worked almost completely crit partner free.  I had a couple of friends I trusted to tell me if my story was crappy or not, but they weren't into the nitty gritty stuff.  But after I found my agent and got published, I've made some amazing writer friends who I feel comfortable critting with.  One is fellow blog chainee Margie.  She's been invaluable.

Shoot, I ran off topic.  Anyway, my typical mode of revision is to write a chapter.  Then, as I'm writing the next chapter, I revise the previous chapter.  Usually only for small stuff.  I save the big picture stuff for later.  But by the time I finish a first draft, it's usually fairly clean of spelling and grammar errors (my first drafts are atrocious).  Then I go back and read through the whole thing again, making changes as I go.  But I steer clear of the BIG ideas until later.  Before I send it off to my crit partners, I break it down by scenes using this awesome spreadsheet my agency AND blog chain partner Shannon gave me.  It helps me see which characters are over or underused, which scenes are too short, any trends in chapter lengths there are.  Then I send it off for critting.

While my crit partners are reading, I also spend time examining scenes that I think don't work and looking at the big picture.  Pacing and plot and characters.  I make a ton of notes so that when my crit partners send stuff back, I can see if they had the same thoughts I did.  It's sort of like a check list.  If we both hate some aspect of the story, then I can be pretty certain that it should go without second guessing myself.  If we disagree, then I know that I need to take a really close look at why.

Once I get everything back and have a good revision plan, it can be anywhere from a few days to a year before I start the revisions.  It really all depends on my focus.  If the solutions to the problems raised during my readings and crittings are pretty straight forward, then I'll move right ahead with the revisions. Otherwise, I'll wait.  I have a history of rushing forward and know I should impose a length of time on myself, but I'm terrible with things like that.

And that's pretty much it for me.  My revision process is scattered and chaotic, but it works.  So how about you?  Tell me what your revision process is like.  And while you're at it, check out rad Michelle's process (and congratulate her on her upcoming  Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers ) and then head over to Abby's fab blog tomorrow and see how she handles revisions!


  1. Wow. You have a system. I am in awe of your system.

    I should really get a system. :)

  2. what she said LOL color me impressed! I may have to try something like that :)

  3. Is that scene-analyzing spreadsheet you mentioned available anywhere online? I'd like to try it sometime.

  4. Wow, it sounds like you have your revision process worked out really well. The only part of my revision process that is set in stone is running spell-check when I'm finished.

  5. Holy cow! No wonder you're published and awesome. Great process, Shaun. I am actually taking notes too :)

  6. That's a hell of a revision system! Awesome! I didn't use crit partners for a long time either. In high school, I had friends who'd read my stuff, but they were just reading for the story--not to help me figure out how to be a better writer. Yet the crit partners I have now are incredible and have taught me so much about my writing.

  7. So glad to hear you're on the mend!!!

    It's so hard to open up that first time and share your work, isn't it? I was honestly terrified to have other writers read my work! When writing I have a tendency to re-read the previous chapter as well and tweak it just a little before moving on!

  8. You might call it scattered and chaotic (which works for me) but it sounds like your revision process is like a well-oiled machine.

  9. Nice process! Congrats on your success!!


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