It’s March and there’s a blog topic up already, very cool. These topics seem to run on a similar theme on a month to month basis. I had a feeling that I had done a blog topic on revision before (and I had) but the questions are a bit different so let’s do it again!
Explain your revision process. Do you go through multiple stages of editing?
It depends on what I’m working on as I confess I don’t put as much effort into revising fanfic, as I do into original work. With fanfic I’ll proof-read it and make minor changes. With Our Darkest Hour I rewrote parts of a couple of scenes, cut a couple of scenes, and made some dialogue/voice adjustments, in addition to checking for typos etc. However, original work is a lot more extensive.
I don’t like (and I never have) that the terms editing and revision seem to be used interchangeably because to me they are two entirely different things. Revision is about structure, plot, the meat of the story. Whereas editing is about grammar, word choice, making it pretty and proof-reading for errors. There is no point in my mind to edit before revision, because what’s the point in polishing something that is going to end up cut or rewritten? The more time/effort goes into something, the more attached you get, so best to keep the draft rough until then.
A decade or so ago I took Holly Lisle’s “How to Revise Your Novel” course. I’ve adapted the process to better suit me after using it repeatedly but the core revision structure remains. Basically finish the first draft and print it out. Remind yourself why you wanted to write the story in the first place. Then see what you have. Go through the draft and find world, character, plot, story problems. Mark it all up and say why it feels wrong. Also, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, if something is awesome and on point, mark that up too so it doesn’t get thrown out accidentally. Only once you have identified the issues, then you can start analysing how to solve them. Form a coherent plan, replot the story, mark up all areas that need adjustment and then do a redraft.
Once the second draft is done, print it out again and do a mini-version of the above analysis. The idea is to get all the problems the first time round, so you aren’t repeating work/effort by adjusting something you then need to change again. However, I certainly like to check that there aren’t any lingering issues and I usually spot a few, something I thought was a good idea on the fix turns out not to work so well. So I’ll fix any remaining issues
Now I would be a lying liar that lies if I said I didn’t do any polishing before this point. Making minor edits when you see them is just impossible to resist. However, it is at this point that I make an effort to ‘edit’ if you like, to the best of my ability. I really should leave this until after the next step but I want the story to be the best I can personally make it, otherwise I’m too embarrassed to show it to someone else, even someone I’ve hired to help me.
Now I’m holding a third draft.
Or just one and then leave the rest to the professionals?
This is when I like to call for some help. I see things the way I see them. Sometimes because I understand my story, I know what I’m trying to say, I don’t realise that it’s not clear to somebody without that background. So it’s beta reader time. Basically getting story/plot/character issues from the perspective of somebody else. In the past I have hired a beta reader and I probably will do so again. I mean it would be nice to have a handful of perspectives (a team of friends) but I don’t really have that so I go with what I can get.
Once I’ve got feedback from the beta reader I make changes. Now I might not agree with everything they say but I always make myself think very carefully about why I’m disagreeing. It’s just their opinion so they aren’t necessarily correct but I’m not necessarily right either. Ultimately it’s my story but I want it to be the best story possible. So yeah I make considered changes based on feedback and then I’m holding draft four.
Do you/will you use professional editors?
Yes. This is when I go for a professional copyedit. I did sign up for an editing course in the hope that I would maybe be able to save myself some money and edit my own work. I know that’s risky because (as I said above) it’s my story. It’s always best to get different eyes on it. However, I have to be honest people that know good grammar and punctuation must be among the smartest people on the planet. I understood the theory no problem but applying it? Yeah I really couldn’t get my head round it. So there’s no debate about whether to hire a professional – I will be doing so!
When I hired a editor in the past they marked up all the edits on Word ‘track changes’ and then I went through them. Mostly I agreed but there were some word alterations that I didn’t agree with and a couple of other stylistic points.
That makes for draft five aka the final finished draft. It’s then complete and ready for formatting.