Filling the Cavities: My Revision Process for Book Two/Draft Two
If you've been keeping up with my blog, you'd know that I've been working on my second Young Adult novel since June. I finished the first draft on August 20th before implementing my new revision process ten days later. Here's what I've done to avoid the frustration and overwhelmingness I felt while revising my first book.
Step One: Waiting ten days
After I finished the first draft, I stepped away to let it breathe. This wasn't part of the plan, but as I got wrapped up in birthday activities and weekend travel, there was hardly time to write anyway. In retrospect, I think it was really healthy that I took some time away. When I did come back to my first draft ten or twelve days later, I felt refreshed and ready to analyze my work more objectively.
It was good having time to decompress, but I'm glad I didn't take too much time off. Otherwise, I might have lost momentum. The longer I'd have waited, the harder it may have been to start the second draft. That being said, I suspect a seven to fourteen day waiting-period is the sweet spot.
Step Two: Reading it through and make notes with the Comment feature
When I revisited my first draft ten days later, I reread the whole thing. Rather than focusing on a line edit (sentence-level, syntax, style, etc.), I highlighted and made comments on a developmental level (plot, character development, pacing, etc.). I just wanted to get an overall, big-picture impression of my work and not worry about what needed to be fixed. By the time I was done reading the draft (it took me two or three days), I had about forty cavities I would need to fill--or, in other words, weak spots that needed fixing.
[Does Word have a Comment Feature? I'm using Pages... but I imagine Word has something similar]
Step Three: Determining my "Order of Operations"
The edits on my book didn't stop with the forty or so I'd made on the immediate draft (I also copied the First Draft and titled the new document Second Draft). While I was drafting the first time around, I had a running document of all the cavities I would need to fill for future drafts. Items on this list fell into three categories: stuff I needed to fix, stuff I needed to reinforce as it related to theme or character development, and new ideas I may want to implement.
I went through this list, put it on a new Pages document, and made decisions about which suggestions were still relevant. There were some things on this list I had already taken care of. Others were ideas I wouldn't include, for one reason or another.
Once I decided which items I wanted to keep (and added a few others I'd thought of), I organized these items in order of "High Importance" to "Medium Importance" to "Low Importance." All of these categories got their own colors, too. Here's how I determined what went in each category:
High Importance: This is the stuff the next drafts can absolutely not do without. It pertains to strengthening motifs, character dynamics, backstory, and other aspects that, if avoided, will have ramifications on the rest of the book. I'll also write down questions I have about major scenes, whether they work, and determine if they're in the optimal sequence. In short, this category is mostly for big-picture stuff.
Medium Importance: This category is for important stuff in the book, but perhaps doesn't have the same weight as items in the higher order category. It has more to do with crystallizing or expounding on scenes that I've already written; it also serves as a reminder to reinforce subplots.
Low Importance: Simply put, this space is for details. It's to remind me that Darlene has a canister of mints in her bag that jangle as she walks; or that Dakota loves to read, so he'll occasionally make literary comparisons. It reminds me to mention the ages of all their cousins, because several of them are introduced all at once; it reminds me that I need to determine what kind of cars (make and model) they're passing during their road trip.
Lastly, I highlighted the points that would require writing brand new scenes.
Step Four: Tackling the smallest edits first
My original plan was to fill the cavities in order of highest to lowest importance, but the amount of changes I needed to make (over fifty, not including the forty or so notes from my Comments notes) felt overwhelming, so I made the smallest, easiest edits first; I'm saving most of the scene rewrites for last.
Step Five: Taking breaks
Revising takes a lot of mental energy--a mental energy that is different that the energy spent on writing the first draft. Because I write linearly, sometimes reworking or adding new scenes in the middle of the manuscript makes my head want to explode.
That's why it's important to take breaks every now and then, especially when I encounter problems I don't know how to solve immediately. I've found a day or two off makes a huge difference in wringing out more creative juices from my brain.
Step Seven: Reading it through again
I haven't gotten to this part yet, but once my Draft Two revisions are made, I plan to comb through the manuscript once again to see how well the new edits work. The objective here will be making sure the plot flows seamlessly.
What's Next for Draft Three?
I don't know yet! TBD!