The revision process in novel writing is brutal. No way around it.
I’m working through the revision stage of my fifth novel, and it takes a lot of time – a lot of time your mind wishes you could use to be writing your next novel.
But it’s necessary, crucial, required, and absolutely worth it. Even though it’s tedious, boring, frustrating, and constraining.
Ahhh – the life of an indie author.
The procedures I used with all of my novels have, admittedly, changed quite a bit over the years. I thought my first novel was so well written that I glossed over this stage. Ha. I laugh out loud at my naivety. But writing is a learning process. If you aren’t learning, you need to question your commitment to your story.
Here’s currently my procedure. It will change again. It always does, but it provides a short blueprint to getting the book to print.
- First Draft – in the first draft, I’m not too concerned about how the language feels or sounds. My first and foremost concern is the story. The plot. I want to flesh out a good story and worry about the details later. So I push quickly through chapters, letting the language flow anyway it wills. It’s a great accomplishment to let the story come to a close. But now the hard work begins.
- Revision – for the second draft, I read through everything in detail, and I undoubtedly realize how hastily put together some of my chapters are. I can also tell where I was particularly inspired and where I was sludging through the writing mud without my boots on. I use this revision to start evening out the language. I pay close attention to phrasing, and start to find and fix any inconsistencies in characters, names, places, or anything else. This is a tedious process. When I finish, however, the novel is much improved over the first draft.
- Next, I do word editing. I specifically target words I want to get rid of: “that”, “really”, “very”, “got”, “then” etc… It’s amazing how easy these unnecessary words can slip into a manuscript. When the sentences containing them are revised, the flow and meaning becomes more crystalized. The flow is better. The readers will be happier.
- Step four is a out-loud read! I will read the entire novel out loud in order to hear the flow of the words and hope to improve the overall feel of the novel. Plus, it’s a great way to spot mistakes.
- At this point, I’m ready to sent it to my Beta readers. This will be the first time someone else has seen my manuscript. Once I start to get feedback from my readers, I’ll adjust the story accordingly.
- Next, on to my editor. Once my editor gives me the assessment, I make changes and do one more read-through, sometimes two more read-throughs before it is ready for publication.
Editing is a trade-off. If I didn’t also have a full-time job, perhaps I would do more, but there has to come a point when the book needs to be released. These are the procedures which are working for me. They aren’t perfect, and I continually tweak them, but I’m happy with where I am. I’ve come a long way.