Time to Revise! Step one: Reflect
Rainy days are designed for reading. So today is a great day to get to reading my manuscript! I took the recommended few weeks away from it and am ready to tackle it once again.
Where to start? There are a lot of ideas out there. So my revision process is certainly NOT mine but a compilation of many who have been there, done that. There is no point to reinvent the wheel, right?
During my break from writing I took the time to read Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway and I gathered a lot of ideas to pay attention to during the revision process that will certainly surface during future blogs. But before I crack the spine of the “Working Manuscript” binder, I needed to reflect on my book and focus on its big picture. When I started writing it, I did not do a lot of pre-writing (besides researching the history side of it). So now that the rough is finished I need to narrow the lens and get a tighter focus.
This brought me to a blog by Holly Lisle titled: One-Pass Manuscript Revision: From First Draft to Last in One Cycle. Ya, I won’t even attempt to revise in one pass, but I will probably turn back to the steps she shares many times. I appreciate her suggestion to start the revision process by discovering what my story is all about.
Her first five tasks are:
- “Write down your theme in 15 words or less.”
This was easier than I thought. You know when you are given a word limit it adds pressure. But I did it, and I think it is about right.
Obligation to family versus following your own dream. Yep – that’s what I came up with.
- “If you have sub-themes and know what they are, write them down too.”
It turns out I have about six sub-themes that I was able to identify off the top, there are probably more subtle ones that will come to the surface later.
We all have a story – societal positions – feminism (even though my MC is male) – overcoming fears – dealing with the death of a loved one – influence of religion This feels like I’m missing something, but that’s OK.
- “Write down what the book is about in twenty-five words or less.”
Twenty-five words is not a lot! About my story that has more than 60,000 of them! (Ya, it’s way too long for my target audience – but it will get there!) This went through a few versions.
Boy aspires for things beyond family tradition, battles fears, fire, and family in pursuit of his own dream. 18 words!
- “Write down a one-line story arc for the book’s main character.”
It turned into the longest run-on sentence in the history of run-on sentences. Well, maybe not. I used to teach fifth grade and I have seen the use of “and” seventeen times in one sentence. But, is running-on a bad habit of mine? No, I am one of the most concise writers I know. (ha ha – remember the 60,000 + words I have to chisel!) And I certainly never drift off topic! (Hey, when you have two little children, you are used to having three or four conversations at one time. It just so happens that may brain continues to do this whether I am with my whirlwinds or not!)
Anyway, I procrastinate . . .
MC battles fears, foes, fire, prejudice (couldn’t think of an F words), and family during the Great Chicago Fire and saves a few lives along the way, but ultimately sacrifices his own dreams for the sake of his family.
Then the biggy:
- “Write down the main characters, and a paragraph of no more than about 250 words describing the story, sort of like the blurb on the back of a paperback.”
THIS WAS HARD! All of these previous steps certainly helped, but it was not pretty. Started off with black ink, went to orange, then red. With arrows and line-throughs everywhere! It turned into less than 200 words (oh-ya! 172 actually!) but I don’t think I would want it on the back of my book just yet. And therefore, I am not putting it out here either.
But what did all of this really do? It gave me the narrowed focus I need for my read through. It also brought to my attention plot and character adjustments I want to make. It was well worth the hour and a half it took to do this.
Next week I will discuss what I do during my read through of my rough draft, the second step of my revision process.
Til then, enjoy playing with words!
BTW, What do you reflect on to help you steer your manuscript?
And one more thing – credit where credit is due – the link to Holly Lisle in case you would like to see what else she says.