Slaying the Novel Revision Beast– Part 1

December 31, 2021 I typed the last word of my rough draft. The fun part was over. It was time for the blood, sweat, and tears part of writing a book.

I let the book rest for about 2 weeks. I guess that part was easy. I’m not too sure how necessary it was though because I hadn’t really looked at the beginning of the book for almost 6 months. But still, I let it rest even though I feel an urge to press on and get this book finished. My personal goal was to finish the book and publish it in 2021. I thought giving myself a year and a half to write and publish a book was plenty of time. It should have been, but there was no way I could have predicted the absolute worst year of my life.

There are writing seasons and not-writing seasons.

Me crying inside for the whole year of school

Last year was difficult for many, many people for a myriad of different reasons. Mine was due to work. I was thankful that I had a steady job to help me pay the bills but there were days…. 3 weeks before classes were starting my principal changed what I was going to teach that year and changed what grade I was going to teach. Then I was offered my dream job (with really amazing people) as a school librarian. My principal would not let me out of my contract though. So I did what I had to, as I always do. I did my job.

I simultaneously taught students at home and in the classroom. It sounds easy but it’s not. Part of the change in position meant I had a ton of extra paperwork to do. There was more that went wrong last year that I can’t talk about which made it absolute misery. I thought all kinds of things, from just walking away, to ending it all. The only thing that helped me survive last year besides the support of my husband and my family was the fact that the principal at the dream job, held the job for me!

I now work at my dream job. Reading stories to kids and teaching library stuff!

All year I didn’t really believe she would, but she did. For that, this amazing woman has my undying loyalty forever. I was officially hired by her and became a librarian August 4th.

Give yourself grace if you need it. Last school year was not a writing year; it was a do your best to survive with your sanity in tact year. I spent part of the summer 2021 vacationing and beginning the healing process. I picked the novel back up. Luckily I had made notes and a basic outline of the novel before my Hell Year. I started to write again.

It is okay to take time off from writing when life demands it.

For the six months I wrote on the fringes of my day to draft the novel and got 1.0 done on Dec 31, 2021. Quite often those fringes were the Write-ins I have with my Writing, Coffee, and Friends group.

As I said, I let it rest for 2 weeks or so. Then I printed that baby out! It was a beautiful sight to see a stack of papers with my novel written down.

Revision Pass #1

Step 1: Realize the enormity of the task in front of you.
Step 2: PANIC! Have an existential crisis.
Step 3: Try to read all the books that exist about revising a novel.
Step 4: Cry a little…or a lot.

That’s what I did. Feel free to skip that part if you want. It’s therapeutic though, especially the crying part. Step 5: Take a deep breath and realize that you are not going to write the perfect novel and that is okay. You can only do the best you can for today. You will get better by doing, so get busy doing.

I have revised many short stories. I go through once for character development, once for plot, once for description, etc. I go over it a million times, each time looking for one thing. That translates to a million years revising a whole novel. I wanted to figure out the most efficient way to revise a novel so I wouldn’t waste time on needless steps. After reading a bunch of articles and some books about revising I notice that everyone goes about it differently. There is no one right way to do it. Each person has to go and discover their own method of revising.

So here I go. Mistakes and all. I’m going to drag you all on my journey with me over the course of the process. Come learn with me!

Revision Pass #1 for REAL- Just Notes

I went through my entire manuscript scribbling notes in the margins and on the verso page (back of the page) about things to fix. Not Grammar and punctuation, that is editing. Big stuff. Character arc and plot hole stuff. Here are some examples of notes I scribbled.

  • I need to make a timeline. Scene 1 Friday evening football season.
  • Emotion: anxiety attack
  • write a throw away scene about Jo before the novel. (to get to know the old her better)
  • Internal conflict: anxiety, control of self
  • why is she reacting differently to this one
  • describe this more-the terror
  • dialogue scene here
  • Home: contemplate here
  • describe her parents more, why are they not home yet.
  • describe her emotions here
  • climax of scene here
  • [arrow moving this paragraph up earlier in the scene]
  • expand this contemplation
  • why?
  • Insert mean girls scene here showing how they bully Jo and Al
  • Play up how they are here
  • “People are more monstrous than that troll.”
  • Al’s POV or Jo’s POV?

Those are some of my notes from the first 22 pages of my draft. It took me 2 weeks (always in the fringes of the day) to go through the whole manuscript writing notes such as these. I tend to write skinny, so you see me making note to add lots of description and contemplation because in draft 1.0 I mostly want to get the plot down on paper. Maybe next time I write draft 1.0 I’ll be better at including the description and contemplation needed for better pacing and story telling.

I need to go through and nail down a timeline so I can write description more accurately as I go through the seasons. This is a story that takes place over a few months, not a few days, so seasons will change. I am going scene my scene identifying the day of the week it happens on and how much time is passing between scenes. Part of my problem/ struggle is that I don’t want to identify a year or even an exact location. This world is Earth in an alternate dimension, just like ours but magic is real. All else is the same. The setting though is not the point of the story, it is about the characters. I’ll pick a year and nail down a timeframe though. #decisionfatigue

Then I’ll go in and start writing what my notes above tell me to write. I’ll let you know how that goes next time!