The revision process is a mystery some people. Some hate it. Some love it. For me personally, I’m still finding my groove. Right now, I’m 28k words into a 50k novel, so before too long, I’ll be in the revision stage again. Part of me is biting at the bit to get started on fixing some major problems with the story. Another part of me is dreading it because there is so much to fix with this story.
I’ve talked to a lot of authors over the last 5 years or so. No two authors write or revise the same way. Some write very cleanly in their first draft and need very little revision and editing before publication. Some revise as they write. Some overwrite and some underwrite in their first draft. For some revision means just fixing some things, but for others it means completely rewriting the whole story from page one to the end. It can even change from story to story. Once I get through with the revision on my current novel, I’ll share my current method. Meanwhile, AJ Korman shared with me her method of revising her novels. AJ is the author of The Halloway Hills Middle School Mysteries.
She has a ton of great advice for revision! Here is what she wrote:
My Three Stage Revision Process
I love revising! I wish I could draft my books faster so I could start revising sooner. When I’m stuck in the writing process, I like to start reading my book from the beginning. This helps me get new ideas for the rest of the book. I’ve heard lots of people say not to do this, because writing and revising require different skill sets. This is true, but when I’m stuck, it really does help me keep going.
Before I get to the details of my revision process, I’d like to thank Kathryn for having me on her blog today.
You’ve likely heard the advice that you should leave your draft for a while before editing. Sometimes I know right away what changes I need to make to a story, so I start editing right away too. Other times, I leave the draft for a week or two before looking at it. Any longer than this and I find I’ve moved on to the next project, and I’m tempted to forget about the story I just finished.
I’m a very lean writer. This means I’m more likely to add words and scenes to my draft than cut them. My first drafts have very little description. For my first revision pass, I’m looking to add more descriptions of the characters and settings. My focus is usually on the beginnings and endings of chapters.
For scenes that I’m happy with, I ask myself if I can use stronger verbs or if there is a better way of saying something. I pay particular attention to try and avoid structuring sentences the same way all the time. I write my drafts in Google Docs, and this is also where I complete my first round of edits.
Next, I download my Google Doc to Microsoft Word and convert my draft to e-book format, so I can read it on my phone. I find the small screen helps me pick up on things like word repetition and typos I don’t notice on my computer screen. I use the Kindle app on my phone, and it has handy note taking and highlighting features that I use as I go through my book.
For this second reading, I try to read the book in one sitting as much as possible, so I can get a sense of how the story flows and if there are any major plot holes. After I’ve highlighted everything I want to fix, I open my book in Microsoft Word and fix the things I noted in my e-reader.
Microsoft Word has a slightly different built-in editor than Google Docs, so once again, I will notice things I hadn’t before. This is usually where I will check for proper punctuation.
Checking for Ticks
I have several writing ticks. These are little mistakes that always seem to slip by even though I remind myself over and over they aren’t correct. Once I’m satisfied with how everything looks in Word, I open a checklist I started for myself in Google Keep. This list contains things I find myself missing often or tips editors have pointed out to me that I want to make sure I remember to check for.
Some things included on my editing checklist are:
- Check that all names are spelled consistently,
- Watch for overuse of it or as,
- Replace straight quotes with curly ones,
- Search for em dashes and ellipses to check the spacing before and after,
- Remove unnecessary uses of the word that,
- Check for distancing verbs like saw, noticed, or looked, and rewrite.
After fixing any of the items on my checklist, my manuscript is finally ready for a professional editor. Depending on the editor I’ll be working with, I may do some formatting to suit their requirements such as adjusting the font style or size as well as the line spacing or margin width.
Once I receive editorial notes, I make any further corrections to the Word document, always making sure that I am updating the latest version of my story. It took me a while to develop this revision system. It’s important to try a few things and figure out what works best for you and your writing process. I love making lists and would be lost without my editing checklist, because I’m always learning and adding new things to it!
I particularly love her list of things to check for because I’m a nut for checklists and I need to check for several of these bad habits too! I hope you got as much out of her process as I have!
As a former accountant, AJ Kormon, started writing books about money to help explain the concept to her kids. As her kids got older, they showed signs of not wanting to read, so she enlisted their help creating a series for resistant readers. This is how the Halloway Hills Middle School Mysteries were born. When AJ isn’t writing and cartooning, you’ll find her losing to her kids at Uno.