Yessir, it’s time to get back to work on Book 3 of the Bound Trilogy.
Wait, you say. What about book two?
Well, that will be off to my editor soon. I hope. In any case, trying to do more to it right now would be a waste of time. It needs a new set of eyes on it. My time is better spent revising the next one, making big cuts and changes and adjustments and WHAT THE HECK HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO AGAIN.
It’s okay. This is always a scary time for me. For a lot of us, actually, so I thought it might be interesting for writer types to talk a bit about how we approach this. I don’t usually do “how I write” posts (because who cares, right?), but this is what’s happening right now, so here we go.
Let’s take a look at what I have here.
Um… It’s 126,000 words, for a start. And I need to add a few scenes, plus throw in some more description all over the place. It’s a fairly big book, is what I’m saying.* What else is it? Well, I think it’s a good story. It needs work. There are places where I didn’t quite have character motivations nailed down, where I missed out on crazy good opportunities for character or plot development, or where something just doesn’t quite fit yet.
But honestly, I think it’s my favourite story of the trilogy. I think Bound is a great story, and that Torn is better… but yeah, this might be my favourite. I pushed characters further and harder than ever before, and… well, no spoilers.
So how do I approach revising something like this? Like so:
1) Read through and take notes. Squee a little at the great moments, note what’s not working, and what can be cut. Make notes on lined paper. Good lined paper, because I’m spoiled. Mead Five-Star or bust.
2) Add these notes to the ones I made while I was drafting re: things to go back and change. I don’t revise while I’m drafting, for two reasons. One, it costs me momentum. Two, until the story is drafted, I can’t see how all of the pieces fit. I might go back and change something, and then need to change it again later. Big waste of time for me.
2) Make a plan. This consists of looking back over what I’ve read, making notes on character arcs, plot, subplots, character interactions and tensions, timelines, and anything else that I need to keep an eye on while revising. I make notes on what these things SHOULD look like so that I can easily see where they’re not working. This is still all on paper. I just brainstorm better that way.
3) Go through, scene by scene, and fix what’s broken. This pass is about the story and characters, not about making it pretty (though I can’t help fixing the writing sometimes). This is the stage I’m at now. I’ve re-written the opening, because as written in draft one it just picked up where Torn ends, and wasn’t particularly compelling. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s better. I will do this for every scene, using my notes. I will cut scenes and completely re-write if I have to. Scary, but worth it if it makes the story better.
4) Go through each POV character’s scenes individually to check for consistency of voice and characterization. Make sure they’re not acting in chapter 2 the way they should be in chapter 22. Now is also the time to make the writing shine a little brighter, add descriptions that I missed before, chase down character observations/feelings/etc. that really get us into their heads.
5) Send to beta readers. Pray they don’t think it sucks and needs to be completely re-written. Hasn’t happened yet, but it’s always a fear.
6) Fix based on their notes.
And after this, it’s all editing, not big revisions. Or at least that’s the hope. I might have to make big changes and re-write scenes post-editing, but hopefully won’t have to change the story.
Is it more work than some writers do? You bet. But every pass gets me deeper into the story and the characters and shows me things I missed before. For me, it’s totally worth the extra work because this is how I make my stories the best they can be. Others have their own methods, and that’s great. In fact, I want to hear about them.
So… yeah. We’ll see how it goes. I’m trying to get through revisions quickly for reasons we’ll talk about in another post. For now, I guess I’d better get back at it.
So tell me, writerfolk: What’s your revision process like? How do you know what works and what doesn’t? What’s the hardest part for you, and your favourite?
*For perspective, Bound was about 118K, making this one a little less than 10% longer. Not so bad, when you look at it that way.
December 9th, 2014 at 3:43 pm
Good luck with the revisions.
I use character bios, plot synopsis, and outlines, so I usually feel like I have a ‘first draft’ before I start the actual writing. Things still change as I write though. I end up taking a break to outline for the next book or something. I might even write the next 1 or 2 in the series before I go back to edit the one book. I’ve been finding that editing in 2’s or 3’s helps me with continuity. Then I send it off to my editor and prepare my best apologies for ridiculous typos.
December 9th, 2014 at 3:49 pm
Yeah, I had a really solid outline for this one (and know the characters well at this point), and it really helped the first draft feel more like a second. And I agree about getting ahead with the editing. I drafted #2 before I published #1, and ended up making changes to #1 based on what I learned there. I’ve done the same thing this time, and made a few big changes to #2 based on drafting #3. It’s really helped me feel like I’m not writing myself into a corner.
Still, I do miss opportunities along the way, and there are angles I’m totally blind to in planning stages that become major issues when I’m drafting. I find it such a fascinating process. Like, logically, I should be able to see it all, but I have to wait for everything to come alive before it can work itself out. 🙂
I imagine writing in a longer series like yours has its own unique challenges in terms of ongoing character development and plot points.
December 9th, 2014 at 4:03 pm
Those missed opportunities are a pain. You get a lot of those in a long series as well as some stories you forget about it. Others you realize can’t go the distance that you thought, so you have to end them early. Although, I have made notes of a few missed plot hooks and plan on using them in other series. At least a variation. Waste not, want not. 🙂
I think one of the biggest challenges of any series length is to make sure the character or story doesn’t peak early. If they do then it helps to have a way to knock them back a bit or change their course. It requires a lot of patience from readers too, which doesn’t always happen because they don’t know how long the series will be.
December 9th, 2014 at 4:08 pm
Definitely. I’m glad I started my characters out with lots of room for growth. The other thing I think is a challenge to draw out is romance. One one hand, I never like when the “will they or won’t they” is excessively and obviously drawn-out, but on the other, there needs to be room for growth. Or as you said, knocking them back down. 🙂
December 9th, 2014 at 4:14 pm
That’s the area that has driven me nuts in my series. I have two . . . 2.5 romances going right now. One appeared at the end of Book 1, so I had to make it as rocky as possible. Hence, the half. Seems some people didn’t like that, but I’m sure others would be bored if it remained perfect throughout the series. The other is more of a ‘when will they’ thing. I’ve found that keeping them subplots or having there be a lot of flirting seems to keep them going. Honestly, I’m really learning my lesson about doing complicated romantic subplots. Real headaches at times.
December 9th, 2014 at 5:04 pm
I’ll be honest- I haven’t gotten to the revision stage for a book. Yet, anyway. And I was horrible about revising papers and such in college because: procrastination. I was usually writing and printing up to the deadline so I didn’t have time to revise. *sigh* I am such a slacker.
I’m totes with you on the Mead 5-Star, though. That stuff’s the bomb.