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:
- 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
- Write self note about how I will restructure it (broad brush strokes) and email it to ed
- 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…)
- Hear back from ed – usually by this point we’ve come round to each other’s point of view and sorted a compromise
- 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)
- 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.
- 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
- Switch on track changes, and do all the deletions (but leave them showing, just in case I change my mind about some of it)
- Work through from start to finish, taking into account notes. Highlight all new text as I go in garish yellow.
- Read through, checking for continuity and sense; tweak as necessary
- 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
- Send revisions (non-highlighted!) to ed with a copy of the broad-brush notes; then keep fingers firmly crossed until ed says yes...