Wednesday, September 9, 2015

To The End of A Revsion! (a.k.a. How To Revise)

poppy field
I went metaphorical with these photos in a series I like to call: The Poppy Blooms.
Photo by Marcus Rahm

My Revision Process


I spent the last two weeks revising my book, currently titled Eric Ortega and the Demon Wind, and I finished on Monday! Twas a very exciting time. I cut the book down from 72k to 66k words.

Now I am going to tell you how I did it.

poppy bud
Photo by Eira Monstad

Step 1: The Big Picture

  1. Speedy read through - to pick out the slow chapters and identify parts that need clarification
    1. Outline the chapters - take notes on characters, location, time passing
    2. Read outline to see if even in note form the story feels active and tense
  2. Full chapter re-writes - sometimes you just gotta take out the parts that aren't working.

unfurling poppy
Photo by Steve Bailey

Step 2: The Nitty Gritty

Once I've mercilessly chopped at the chapters that need overhauling, I start over from the beginning with a fine tooth comb.

On this go through, here are some of the things I look for (Note: My examples are for fun, they're not actually from my book.):

  • Fixing grammar and spelling mistakes (The Obvious)
  • Eliminating passive tense
    • Ex., before revision: I was swinging on a vine, yodelling at the top of my voice. 
    • Ex., after revision: I swung from vine to vine and yodelled so the whole jungle could hear. (Okay, so I took a few other revision liberties, but that's the sort of thing I'd do too.)
  • Cutting the word "start".  This is a weird personal thing. Apparently I love to use the word "start." I cut it at least fifty different places.
    • Ex., before revision: "I started to put on my purple polka dotted pants"
    • Ex., after revision: "I pulled on my purple polka dotted pants."
  • Cutting conjunctions. I do love my compound sentences. I use "and" and "but" far too often. I even like to start sentences with "And." I have less of an "or" addiction.
  • Eliminating the word "said" when I can indicate the speaker through action. I've read a lot of recommendations to use the word "said" rather than getting fancy with words like "interjected", "screeched", "demanded", etc. But still, it's nice not to have to use it on every other line.
    • Ex., before revision: Little Billy picked his nose with his tiny pointer finger.
      "What do you think you're doing?" Sheanna said.
    • Ex., after revision: Little Billy picked his nose with his tiny pointer finger.
      "What do you think you're doing?" Sheanna pulled Billy's hand away from his nose as Billy strained to keep picking.
  • Envisioning the action. It's so easy to write an impossible action scene. You throw in a smattering of awesome verbs and actions and sometimes you forget that Little Billy was just across the room because now you need him next to the door. When revising these scene, I try to picture them in my head and make sure none of my characters are accidentally doing the impossible.
  • Adding Description. Another personal foible. I'm not big on description in the books I read, and I'm not big on writing it into my books, so making sure I've adequately described my world is important.

pretty poppy
Photo by Peter G W Jones

Step 3: Send Awesome Draft To Others

Time to send it off to my critique partners so they can find  the problems I can't see on my own.

This is where I am in my editing process. A great big thank you to my awesome critiquers (present and past)!

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