While waiting to hear back on submissions, one of the best things to do is to envelop yourself in other writing projects. Today, I sit at my laptop, ready to begin the in-depth revisions of my latest novel. For the first time ever, I began this particular novelling journey by composing a Query Letter, then I mapped out the entire novel using Scrivener’s Cork Board. I write about my discovery and first impressions of that software, here. This manuscript, which began as an exercise in how to use the famed software, has developed into a really fun adventure about Misty Dawn and Violet, two college girls whose attempts to beef up their social statuses end them up at a ranch in Wyoming for Spring Break.
Through the years, I have learned that I am a very lean writer. Drafting a novel, for me, always ends in low word counts, with just the skeleton of the story, start to finish, played out. I am known for including phrases like “(scene about a car chase will go here)” and “(scene with their first date details will go here)” into my first drafts, because, well, when a story comes to me, I need to get the thing sketched out. Good, bad, or otherwise, my plan is to go back and fill in the details later. I guess that you could say that my first drafts are merely embellished sketches of the blueprint.
In the past, I have edited my manuscripts in phases, and saving each phase of revision as a new draft. If you are interested, here is the process I follow to edit my draft:
Phase 1-Plot Holes: Print out one copy of the draft. Read through it in its entirety, looking for large plot-holes or gaps in the story. Flag them with a sticky. After the reading is complete and flagged, go through and fill in the gaps, as best as you can. Save it as a new draft. This part goes pretty quick for me.
Phase 2-Main Character Validity and Plot: Print out one copy of the draft. Read through it looking at the character arc of your main characters, reviewing for plot along the way. Use sticky flags to mark problem plot areas. With pen, directly on the printout, make notes about your character’s progression through the novel. Go back through and make necessary changes. Save it as a new draft.
Phase 3- Supporting Characters, Main Characters, and Plot: Print out a copy of the draft. Read through it to see how the supporting characters enhance the story arc and main characters. Make changes as necessary. Eliminate anything that doesn’t work. I sometimes revisit my original outline at this point to see if there is anything I missed and want to use. Save it as a new draft.
Phase 4-Spelling/Grammer: I don’t usually use a hard copy for this part. Go through the latest draft in Word looking for these errors.
Once I have gone through these four phases, I feel like I can send it to beta readers, either in chunks of chapters or as an entire document, depending on the reader. This year, though, with my Misty Dawn draft, I took part in SC Author’s “Become An Agent” contest, mostly because I had the QL already finished, and I felt I could get the first 250 words in order for it as well. Here is a link to my entry.
So now, here I sit, with the amazing suggestions from the other contest entrants about my early novel, poised and ready to begin Phase 1 of my editing process.
Please share how you approach editing your novels below. And if you don’t follow me on Twitter, please do! I love to learn about this crazy writing process by connecting with other writers.