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.