Contests, PitchWars, Revising, Writing, Young Adult

Tackling a Major Revision, or How I’m Revising for Pitch Wars

In addition to promising to talk about my Pitch Wars mentors’ books (I’ll feature Kristin Smith’s books next week!), I said I’d share my revision process, so here goes.

A week after the Pitch Wars announcement, I received a thirteen-page edit letter from my mentors, as well as an invitation to view a Google Doc with line edits on the full manuscript I submitted for consideration. Neither of these documents were really as overwhelming as they might seem. I have two mentors, so the length of the edit letter had a lot to do with two writers making comments on it, I think. Both mentors wrote an introduction, followed by comments on chapters as they saw issues (some chapters didn’t have comments–yay!), and then there were character notes and miscellaneous thoughts at the end. As for the line edits, they’re super helpful as I’m revising because many of them point out places my mentors love and I should definitely keep, not just areas I need to fix.

So how have I approached this?

1. A huge sigh of relief. My mentors are amazing! I knew this manuscript wasn’t there yet. It’s why I entered Pitch Wars. Kristin and Beth’s recommendations for enhancing my manuscript and taking it to the next level were fantastic. We emailed back and forth on a couple of suggestions where I had reservations and brainstormed alternate solutions. But the thing was, I wouldn’t have come up with alternate solutions if they hadn’t pointed out they had an issue with the way things currently stood.

2. Create an outline listing how I proposed implementing the suggested changes in the manuscript. The nice thing here is that I already had all of the outline information in my Scrivener file. I set it up before I drafted the novel, so all I had to do was export my outline and update it according to the changes I planned to make.

In addition, I included extensive revision notes. For the few new chapters, the revision notes were pretty much a step-by-step guide through the chapter. This outline took me about four or five days to complete. Here’s an example from an early chapter, since I don’t want to give too much away :).

3. Send the outline to my mentors for approval. Even though my outline addressed all of my mentors’ suggestions, either incorporating them or explaining why I felt another solution worked better, sending in the outline had me biting my nails. Was I suggesting enough? Would I need to go back to the drawing board and come up with different solutions? But it turned out I had nothing to worry about. My super-supportive mentors loved my outline, and while they had a few tweaks and additional suggestions, they gave me the go-ahead to start revising.

4. Input the outline changes and revision notes into Scrivener. It may seem like extra work to output the outline and then put it back into Scrivener, but it took maybe an hour of cutting and pasting, and I like to have everything in my Scrivener file as I’m working. So as I’m revising, that same chapter you saw above looks like this in Scrivener. (When I’m tackling a revision on my own, I skip straight to this step and put all my revision notes into Scrivener, except with this particular manuscript I did go through this outline-with-revision-notes process on an earlier draft with two of my critique partners. That’s how I knew it was such an easy way to approach explaining what I planned to change.)

5. Start revising! Once I had my Scrivener file all ready to go, I started revising chapter by chapter. My system is:

a. Tackle chapter revision notes.

b. Incorporate line edits from my mentors.

c. Complete a repeated word search for the chapter. Yes, this slows down my revisions a bit. However, everyone who’s read this manuscript has commented on pacing as a strength, and I think one factor is that I weeded out repeated words chapter-by-chapter early in the revision process. Since I’ve done it before, I’m not doing it as detailed during this revision, particularly on the chapters that don’t have a ton of changes. But for the brand-new chapters (I’ve already written two), you bet! Because I still tend to use the same words over and over, and searching for those repeated words ensures each character sounds unique and that I’m using the best word in each instance. Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now, but you can refer to my post on why you might want to change a word, even if you only use it twice in a chapter.

So where am I now?

Making great progress and excited about how the changes I’ve already made are positively impacting the manuscript. This process is fantastic, and no matter how the agent round pans out, I’m confident YOUR SECRET’S NOT SAFE WITH ME will be a much stronger manuscript. I’m so thankful for Kristin and Beth’s insight and support, as well as all of my CPs who got me here in the first place.

While I’m applying this process to Pitch Wars revisions, it could be used to tackle any major revision. As I mentioned above, I used it with my CPs when working through some issues on an earlier draft. Also, if you have a revise & resubmit with an agent or editor and they’re open to seeing what you plan to do with the revisions before you start on them, you could use this sort of system. It just depends on how much detail they want.

Now I’d better get back to revising!!

Before the Draft, Writing

Before the Draft: Outlining in Scrivener

I know I promised the last post in this series last week, but I spent much of the week at the hospital or at my parents’ house as my mom recovered from her hip replacement. She’s doing great, by the way (Hi, Mom!). In any case, I did meet my daily word count goals for drafting, but I just couldn’t get to the blog. So, here we go with the last post in my “Before the Draft” series. And it’s on…

…outlining. Which you already know from the title, but I feel like it deserves dramatic music because writers have such varied views on it. I can understand that. I didn’t outline at all for my first two books. One of those I barely claim, and the other probably would have benefited from some additional structure. Then, before I started writing DUET, I discovered Scrivener–cue choir of angels–and my brand of outlining was born.

I love a lot of things about Scrivener, but the corkboard is my favorite organizational tool. Once I’ve completed my research and figured out my characters, I use the corkboard to lay out my scenes. I start by making notecards for the scenes I’ve been jotting down in a Word document from the moment I first had the idea for the story. Then I go through my character profiles and add notecards for scene ideas that came up during that process. Finally I get strategic and figure out what other scenes I need to connect all of those. I give each scene a title and write a few sentences about what I expect to happen. I was going to post the corkboard I’m working from right now, but I’m not quite ready to talk about that project yet, so here’s the corkboard from DEXELON:

Screen Shot 2013-09-13 at 2.56.02 PMMy pre-draft corkboard isn’t a complete list of scenes, but it gives me direction when I start drafting. I don’t finish a scene and wonder, “What happens next?” This DEXELON corkboard is a pretty good example of how I use it. You’ll notice a couple of notecards don’t have descriptions. Those are scenes I added after I started drafting. And those of you who have read DEXELON might notice the descriptions don’t match up with what actually happens in the story. That’s because I solely use the corkboard as a pre-draft resource. I rarely update the notecards once I start drafting, so it’s kind of fun to look back afterward and see where I originally thought the story would go.

As you can see, I’m definitely not a pantser, but I’m not a super-detailed plotter, either. I like to know where I’m going, but I’m fine with diverging from that path if the story takes me in a different direction. In the half-dozen scenes I wrote last week, I already moved around a few notecards and inserted a new one. If I had to do all of that in a Word document, I’d go crazy!

How do you outline? Do you like to have every plot point laid out in advance or just let it come as it flows?

Other posts in this series:
Before the Draft: Research
Before the Draft: Procrastination
Before the Draft: Character Development