Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Slaying the Revision Dragon

Looking at the multiple drafts of my WIP  marked up with suggested revisions is a daunting task. I feel like St. George standing before the Dragon; I hope I will be as successful. My beta readers are awesome, and I appreciate the time they have invested in helping me write the best book possible. Now it is my turn to invest hours in rereading and revising The Cavanaugh House.

To say I felt overwhelmed when first facing this process is putting it mildly. At the end of October, I had gathered all of my drafts, set them in a row, and BAM, my back went out on me making it impossible to sit at my computer for any length of time. Then we sold our cottage and had an impromptu moving sale that lasted through two weekends, and then the holidays arrived. It was January before I was able to return to my revisions. You know how difficult tasks loom larger and larger the longer they are put off? Yeah. A dragon.

I knew what I needed was a method. How would I approach this Hydra-monster-task knowing that as I revised one draft, other issues would reappear in the next? Now, I am a pantser when it comes to writing, so I usually go where my Muse leads me without an outline or plan. That wouldn’t be effective in this stage of my writing, so I MADE A PLAN. Oh, yes I did!

Attitude is Everything
I had an appreciation for my English students as my heart sank at the appearance of red marker (yes, I provided each local reader with a red pen) and tracking comments on the pages of my drafts. What? They didn’t think my novel was perfect as it was? Even knowing that my beta readers had my goal in mind—to make my book the best it could be—I was a little disheartened at the need for any changes. So the first step in my plan was an attitude adjustment—right now. After working through the first two drafts, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I felt a tremendous appreciation for all the time and effort my beta readers had put into improving my book. That alone made me feel supported and surrounded by positive energy.

Approach with Caution
I decided to approach my drafts with my beta readers in mind. Some of their approaches were more developmental while others were more mechanics. My intention was to tackle overarching story line edits first, but I could not pass by mechanical edits along the way. So my systematic approach became a bit muddied. I did line my drafts up according to which beta reader would be most exacting on grammar, spelling and punctuation, figuring that some of these would be corrected along the way by my developmental readers.

I never thought I’d say this, but the mechanical corrections are so much easier than the developmental. I had to add an entire scene in order to provide interaction between my protagonist and a secondary character. The story line begged for it, and so did my beta readers. Naturally, that change led to necessary modifications in their interactions later in the book. It’s the domino effect—change this and it tumbles all the way to the end. But once I had written it, the relationship between these characters made so much sense—and added a delicious aspect to a conflict that had been minor. Can you say “sequel”?

It’s the Little Things
Not only do major rewrites require a thorough re-look, minor changes do as well. For example, one of my readers noticed that I used the word “got” too often. I sing her praises since “got” is such a weak word. But once I revise it to an alternate word, say “acquired” or “progressed” or “arrived”, I have to search the nearby pages to see if I am then repeating that word. Hydra-monster indeed.

Timing is Everything
I find revision seems to take more time than creating the story—okay, maybe not. When I look at the revision process from afar, it seems less exciting than the actual drafting of the story, but when I get down to the task, it is exciting to see how tightening, changing, and adding makes the story so much better. I am amazed at the insight and creativity of my beta readers. Their suggestions are spot-on almost every time.

One More Time
Once I finish with these revisions, I will turn my draft over to H.J., my friend and former colleague whose line-editing is thorough! When she provides the final mark-up, I will make those corrections and then publish. What a sweet word!

So as I work on my revisions, I thank each of you: Kate, Linda, Janet, Deborah, Luana, H.J., and Sarah. I have spent days with each one of you whispering in my ear. Thank you for your efforts, your support and your belief in me. I will slay this Revision Dragon, wrap my "girdle" around his neck and he will follow me like a tame beast...or so the legend goes.

Now share with me something you love or hate about your revision process.


  1. What I love about the revision process is when you finally reach the point where you do not want to make any more changes. And then it's done. :)

    1. I am looking forward to that moment, Deborah! But I have to admit, there is a certain satisfaction in the revision process. Thank you so much for your help!

  2. Great post! When you break it all down into pieces it really doesn't look so daunting.

    1. You're right, Brenna. Often when I first look at a task I only see the big picture and that's when I feel overwhelmed. Breaking it down into do-able chunks is always easier. Thanks for stopping by!