I was supposed to post a blog yesterday, but we did yardwork, instead. We have a small volunteer tree at the end of our driveway that had nearly engulfed our mailbox, and I’m sure our mail carrier will appreciate the fact that we finally trimmed it back a bit. After that, I felt like I’d accomplished enough for one day, and I retired to my recliner in triumph.
Actually, I wasn’t just being lazy. Tomorrow is a certain someone’s birthday, so I’m finishing my last read-through of her birthday novel, Unspeakably Wooed. It’s a sequel of sorts to my April Camp NaNoWriMo novel, Black Eagle Rising, and it fits in with the Myrciaverse civil war timeline that features books like The Last Bright Angel and Called to Account. It was a fun story to write, and I’m hoping S enjoys it when we start reading it on Tuesday.
A couple days ago, as I was listening to my new book with the Adobe Acrobat read-aloud feature, it occurred to me that I should write down what I’ve been doing to revise. It used to be pretty haphazard, but over the last year or so, I’ve been developing a standard process, and since S and I are such dedicated outliners, it felt like I should make a revision outline that I can follow in the future, so I don’t accidentally leave something important out. So here’s what I’ve been doing to revise Unspeakably Wooed. Some of these things I’ve been doing for a while, and some of them I’ve started doing recently, based on what I’ve been reading on some of my favorite writers’ blogs.
1. First read-through
-Fix inconsistencies, major typos.
-Take notes of potential major issues to fix later, but don’t fix them yet.
2. Second read-through
-Read by character.
-Last, first, second-to-last, second chapter, and so on, working toward the middle.
-Look for consistency, particularly of character voice.
-Fix minor issues; take notes of major problems.
3. Address the first round of notes
-Look at notes from first and second read-throughs, fix character issues and problems with plot.
4. Third read-through
-Using read-aloud feature in PDF, following along in the Word doc.
-Continue to smooth awkward phrasing. Make notes of possible structural issues.
5. Ctrl + F
-Look for following words: “Only, Just, That, Immediately, Suddenly, Abruptly.” Cut as many of these as you can.
-Check for sighs, eye-rolls, and any other physical movements that turn up too often.
-Ctrl + F for any other words and phrases that seem (based on first three read-throughs) to show up too many times. Rephrase where necessary.
6. Structural issues 1
-Look for infodumps and backstory in the opening chapters. If they’re necessary at all, make sure they show up no earlier than the end of Act I (ideally wait until Act II).
-Find logical places to reveal this information later in the story; move it there.
-Make sure each POV character has at least one chapter in which he/she shows up and is introduced with action, but without backstory.
7. Structural issues 2
-Look at character sheets for POV characters. Look at their “Central Questions” (Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Goals). Has each character achieved his/her goals? Whether they have or haven’t, has this been mentioned in the text or reflected upon by the character?
-What was the “point” of the story (the “Thematic Question”)? Has this question been resolved? Where? Clarify for the reader if necessary.
8. General tightening (Fourth read-through)
-Read through and tighten. Try to remove at least 1% of the words (i.e. 600 words of a 60,000 word novel).
9. Reading out loud 1 (Fifth read-through)
-Ideally by yourself, reading out loud to an empty room. If necessary, can listen to new PDFs using the read-aloud feature.
10. Reading out loud 2 (Sixth read-through)
-With a partner. Fix minor mistakes as you go. Keep notes for any remaining major problems.
If you’re wondering, I’m on step number nine right now.
What really stood out to me when I wrote this all down was that I read my books a minimum of five times before I even let S see them. But even so, I’m sure I’ll find all sorts of typos and clunky phrases when we read it together tomorrow. And that’s why we do that.
But first, it’s time to start the pre-partying for S’s birthday! And also, we’re going to buy mulch today. It’ll be a hoot.