Revision

I’m working on revising my NaNoWriMo story and that’s taking most of my writing time which is great.

How am I revising/editing?

The following is generally how I’ve been going about this next draft and hopefully it’s making my first draft better and that’s the goal.

  • I’ve been working on fleshing out my characters. I see them clearly in my imagination but I have to make sure a reader can see them too.
  • I have some places to fill in that I skipped in the mad rush of that first draft. I’m writing entire new scenes for those areas. This seems easier now that I see where the story is going more clearly.
  • I saved each scene in its own folder and I’m going through those one at a time. Eventually I’m hoping they will each be a chapter. And I like having each one in its own folder so as this book takes shape I can rearrange easily if I need to. At first I had just numbered them as I wrote but now I’m adding chapter titles so I have an idea of what is going on in each one. This makes it easier to remember what happened when.
  • I’m updating and creating a synopsis as I go. This helps me keep an eye on the story as a whole and will be a better tool for me once this first revision is done. This will help making a short description of the story when it’s done. The chapter titles really help here.
  • When I find things I need to know more about I let myself get on the internet and look things up. That can be a huge time dump so I’m careful about doing that. I like doing this when I’m too tired to actually write. At least I feel like I’m still working on the story but in a different way.

The more I read about revision the more I see that everyone does what works for them. I like picking up techniques that appeal to me.

I also see that a lot of people don’t like this part of the writing process. I like it. To me the hard part is getting a completed first draft done. Revising is adding all the fun parts and the details that make the story come alive. It’s like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle.

I read books, blogs and writing forums to pick up ideas. But again I have to be careful not to spend all my writing time doing that. I need to stick to the actual writing.

Do you have any favorite tools or suggestions about revision that you would like to share? I would love to hear your ideas.

Keep writing!

I’ve Been Critiqued, Now What?

I am incredibly lucky to belong to the Wordwrights, a local writing group. I get to submit my writing and have it critiqued. I always learn from this. It’s taken me a while but I finally have a system of what to do with those critiques once I have them.

In the group, we submit a piece of our writing to be read and critiqued at the next month’s meeting. Last month I handed out a short story. This month the group discussed it and then everyone handed me back the copies with written comments. During the meeting, I make notes about the comments I hear. I get to listen to how people felt about the overall impression of the writing and then go home and read the details.

It can be a bit overwhelming to sit down with all of those copies and all of those written comments. Here’s how I handle it.

First I read through each copy. I do a lot of nodding and forehead banging when an obvious spelling, punctuation or grammar error is highlighted. I smile at the compliments. Then I frown and take any suggestions about improving the piece very seriously.

I open the file on my computer so that I can make the changes as I find them.

I go through them all again, page by page and line by line. I look at each critique one page at a time, keeping them all open to the same page looking for places where most of the readers found something that needs improving or correcting. By having them all open to the same page I can immediately see when everyone found the same mistake, which means I have to change that. If the majority of readers find the same mistake, I correct it without hesitation.

Sometimes one reader will make a comment or suggest a change which none of the other readers picked up. That’s when I make a judgment call. Since I know that the readers are seeing the writing objectively for the first time I assume that they are picking up a defect that I’ve missed. But when only one reader finds something that isn’t clear I try to determine if it really is something that needs improving.

If I can’t see what they are seeing then I read it out loud to hear what they are referring to. This is a great way to find mistakes in writing.  

After I’ve given it careful thought, I decide if it’s something that I need to change.

Our group is very diverse which works out well while doing critiques. The writers in the group who write nonfiction are a great audience for my fantasy or science fiction because if they ‘get’ what my story is trying to say then I know I’ve communicated it clearly.

Ultimately, unless it’s a clear mistake with spelling, grammar or punctuation, the other comments of what works or not, are opinions of the readers. I can then agree or not, with what they say.

I take all of their comments to heart. They’ve put time and effort into critiquing my writing. I appreciate and trust their comments. I feel very lucky to belong to such a great group.