This happens more often to me than I’d like to admit.
After <insert whatever length of time> I am done with the first draft something I get so excited. I call up friends, I blast it on social media, I pop open a good bottle of wine.
Then I realize I’m no where near finished. No. Where. Near.
In fact, I have a whole other process awaiting me and it’s not nearly as fun as the creative part that I just finished.
But, as I’ve learned time and time again, the book is written in revision and it can be just as exciting as the first step. Yes, it can be.
I’ve learned to love revision like one learns to love cranberry juice, it’s an acquired taste that actually isn’t too bad once it’s actually, you know, acquired. And you are so glad that you’ve gotten use to that taste because it’s better for you than you think. For me, that’s revision.
All kidding aside, I have come to love that part of the process. It’s different from the creation side but I get this great satisfaction seeing the story come together in revision, becoming the story I knew it could be.
So, over the years I’ve developed a system for revision. It started in grad school when I had to revise my thesis quickly. I needed a systematic way to deal with all the changes and upgrades I would do for scenes. This is what I came up with and it’s helped a couple of my friends who were also in a similar position.
I call it the 4-part revision master plan and one of the best parts about it is that it’s completely adjustable. You can adjust the plan based on time constraints or whether you’re writing a novel, novella, or short story. You can also add or subtract what you need depending on your writing process.
To this day I use this technique and it’s what I’m using to revise my current novel. I also teach a version of this to my writing students.
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Now remember that revision is not the same as editing. Editing is a needed process where one checks grammar and mechanics. Revision is big picture stuff — the narrative arc, character development, theme development, etc. It’s really easy to get lost in all that unless you’ve got a good system to guide you through. This is stuff a development editor will question and find in your copy.
Why not get the development editor to find the novel’s issues for you? That’s why you pay them, right? That’s one way to handle it, however, as a writer, I’d rather the development editor catch stuff I couldn’t see than fix the stuff I knew I could fix on my own. By the time an editor sees it, I want them to fine tune. I want copy in their hands that is not only clean but also without plot holes or flat character. I don’t want them to waste their energy and talents on something I could have done myself. I want an editor to zero in on bringing my novel to the next level. That’s another reason why I love using this master plan, it gives the writer a chance to think like an editor at the right time in their writing process.
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