Friday, January 29, 2010

tackling revisions (craft post)

Current work: revisions on French Book 2
Listening to: Bach
Reading: next on TBR

I haven’t done a craft post for a while; and as I know people worry about revisions, I thought it might be useful to share how I do it. Not prescriptive: it's just how it works for me, as a confirmed planner. If you find it useful, great; if you find it scary or mad, ignore it.

Some people print out their manuscript and edit by hand, but I do mine completely on screen. I should admit that there’s a fair bit of what looks like messing about involved, but that’s actually thinking time and it's very useful.

Usually I get an email from my ed with a Word document attached, telling me what she likes and what doesn’t work. And then I go through what's turned out over the years to be a 12-step process:

  1. Read ed’s/agent’s thoughts, decide what I agree with and what I will argue (latter usually means the idea is good but I haven’t made it clear enough for my reader to get it, first time round - have forgotten that readers cannot know what is in my head and not on the page), then sleep on it
  2. Write self note about how I will restructure it (broad brush strokes) and email it to ed
  3. More thinking about it, while ed also thinks about it (this step is usually accompanied by endless games of Spider Solitaire or Sudoku. Really, this is not just playing. I am keeping part of my brain and my hands busy while a different part of my brain is fixing the book. I might even do things like scrub tile grouting or clean the oven, in this phase…)
  4. Hear back from ed – usually by this point we’ve come round to each other’s point of view and sorted a compromise
  5. Copy file and paste to “draft 2” folder (each book has its own folder, with sub-folders of notes, pictures, draft 1, draft 2 etc – and my ed might get what she thinks is draft 1 but is actually draft 4, if previous chapters didn’t work. I never delete a file because it might come in useful in the future)
  6. Open new file and set up a table. Left hand side is brief outline of book, chapter by chapter, as it is now (and that might not be the same as my original outline – although I’m a planner, I’m flexible with it). Right hand side is what I’m going to add/move/change. The level of detail varies here and sometimes includes whole conversations in note form (i.e. no punctuation, speech tags or anything, is all done in dashes as if it's a script); it really depends what the changes are.
  7. Open copy of book, go through chapter by chapter and paste in notes from right hand side of table in appropriate place, highlighted so I can see what I’m doing
  8. Switch on track changes, and do all the deletions (but leave them showing, just in case I change my mind about some of it)
  9. Work through from start to finish, taking into account notes. Highlight all new text as I go in garish yellow.
  10. Read through, checking for continuity and sense; tweak as necessary
  11. Make broad-brush notes of what I’ve changed, according to garish yellow bits, then save garish file as ‘colour coded’ file and take off the highlight in the original file
  12. Send revisions (non-highlighted!) to ed with a copy of the broad-brush notes; then keep fingers firmly crossed until ed says yes...


Anonymous said...

Fascinating post Kate. Thank you for that. SO interesting to see what you do chapter by chapter.
Hope the revisions go well. :)

Caroline Storer said...

I echo Nina Kate! Fascinating post. As a newbie any information on editing etc is very helpful. As someone who doesn't like the editing, revision, rewriting process very much I found it very useful and I especially like the way you break your chapter's down. (I tend to use index cards. One chapter on each with all the salient points on them.

As someone who *must* learn how to love the editing process I'm always reading articles about editing and I did read a good one the other day. One point that struck a chord was to see the word revision in a different light, and to split it into "re Vision" - the emphasis on the word "Vision" of course - Oxford Dictionary def. of "vision" - "the ability or an instance of great perception, esp, of future developments". I liked that!

Another one for us newbies (i.e. me!) is to use the "find" function in WORD and select "Find All" for "ly" i.e the over use of adjectives and adverbs. Massively (see what I mean!) guilty of this one. (LOL). It does help to tighten up the ms IMHO. Got to stop now - or I'll be here all day! Take care. Caroline x

Donna Alward said...

You are WAY too organized. Oh my gosh! Not sure I should admit that I don't go to anywhere near the trouble you do.

My revision process: Get notes from editor. If I'm lucky, not my head vigorously, self-chastise for not realizing things myself, or if I'm not lucky, sheer panic.

Remind myself not to e-mail editor while panicked. Give in and e-mail editor anyway. Clean oven. Do laundry. Gnash teeth. Possibly bake cake.

Soon I begin to see editor's point (this step skipped if it made sense all along, as it did last book) and start envisioning changes. Open document. (I don't work off a print copy either- I save that for the AA's)

Make easiest changes first, crossing each off on my revisions letter as I go. Then go back to beginning of book, and one page at a time, address the changes overall - after all this time the points are burned into my brain.

Save file as titlerevisions. save many many times.

Re-read for seamlessness and polish and hope for the best.

I am in awe of your colour coding etc. I'm not sure if it would be clearer for me to do that, or confuse me more.

Most importantly though - is to find a system that works for you and go with it, don't you think?

Jane Holland said...

Great tips here, many thanks! I work in pretty much the same way - I also like to plan in both detail and broad strokes, according to necessity - but I've not yet disciplined myself to use Track changes and colour coding etc. I must stop being scared of such things and try them!

I particularly liked your Step 6, where you place original plan and revised plan side-by-side. That sounds really groovy. I tend to do that on paper, by hand, but will now force myself to get more techno about it.

I've been pretty spoilt as a writer so far. Of my seven pubbed novels, only my debut with Sceptre came back with revisions, and they were mainly text-level, copy-editing revisions, no major structural issues. So if I do get into HMB, their zealous revision policies may prove a bit of a challenge.

But I imagine I'd get used to that kind of regime in the end. I always revise my work rigorously BEFORE it goes out, so it's not as though I have no idea how to go about revising a book. ;)

Kate Hardy said...

Nina - glad they've been useful.

As for the revs... we'll see what ed says :o(

Kate Hardy said...

Caroline - glad it was helpful.

Interesting view of the word "revision" - must remind myself of that...

And LOL on the "search and replace". I have a CP who tells me if I overuse a word ;o)

Kate Hardy said...

Donna - did I not mention the "sheer panic" section in mine? (It's the same as the "mainline chocolate" bit...)

Definitely agree that you need to find the system that works best for you. Sometimes it's trial and error...

Kate Hardy said...

Jane - track changes is BRILLIANT.

And lucky you on not having revisions! (I never did before HMB, either...) It's a matter of knuckling down and getting on with it, and trusting my ed because I'm too close to the book to see the wood for the trees.