Revision Step Two: Read through Rough Draft

Read Through   Relatively painless.  But I know its the calm before the storm.

What I did:

1. Treated it like a book.  I sat somewhere comfy, usually on my couch after my whirlwinds were in bed.  Sometimes with a glass of wine.  But unlike reading for leisure, I had highlighter,  red pen, post-it tags, and notepad ready to go. Oh and a very critical attitude!

2.  Made a list of notes/symbols I would use.  My goal is not to do  major notes or writing scenes at this point.  I want to get through this bad boy in a few sittings.  The tags I used:

  • <—> reorder
  • zzzzz dragging
  • (  ) confusing
  • ?? cut/change
  • highlight – awkward/take another look at
  • + add details
  • – make concise
  • BL add body language
  • VIS visualize/add sensory details
  • 🙂 keep

3. Get reading.  The goal of this read through is big picture kind of stuff.  There is no point to line edit now, it would actually be a big waste of time.  I need to be merciless nonetheless.   I am not married to these words.  These characters work for me!  (Ever get evaluated on the job? Nothing like having a surprise observation by the principal when you’re having an off day!)

These characters and scenes have a job to do and if they’re not making life more complicated for my MC (main character), contributing to or setting up conflict, and making me want to turn the page, then I need to go back to them and consider their value – do they get the pink slip or remediation?  Yes, there are characters and scenes that are absolutely delightful.  The picture was painted vividly and the characters sounded really real.  But if they’re not doing their job, I have to be tough.  And I will keep these scenes in a deleted scenes folder for me to go back to and enjoy the beauty of my thoughts some other time.

Through the course of the read through it became very clear the parts I enjoyed writing and the parts I forced myself to get through!

4.  After reading I took some time for an essential part – more reflection.  It’s a best practice in education for a reason.  People need time to process and absorb what they’ve learned.  This is true for revising as well.  I am learning things about my writing while I’m reading it.  I need to grant myself time to reflect on my writing and not just jump right into the rewrite.  My rewrite will hopefully be more thoughtful and accomplish more if I take time to formally think about it.

Reflection questions after the first read through:

  • What glaring issues stand out?
  • Are there any scenes that can be cut? What needs to be done in order to cut them?
  • How’s the MC? Do I like him? Do I cheer for him?  Is he relatable? What changes need to take place to make him more attractive as a MC?
  • Is my antagonist believable?  Do I really dislike him?  What more needs to be done to make him more undesirable?
  • What are the really weak scenes that need a lot of attention to be saved?  What do they need?
  • What research still needs to be done?
  • Is the climax/resolution all it should be? Did I feel tension? Does it wrap up the ongoing conflict from the story? Is my end in my beginning?

I am sure there is more I should be thinking about at this point, but what it is I haven’t figured out yet.  If you have any reflection questions you think should be added to the list, leave a comment.

One more thing, I found this blog by James Scott Bell on revision.  One of his suggestions: Consider what a critic would objectively say after reading your manuscript, write it in a short essay.

I would say: The bones of the story are good, but there’s a lot of flab!

Next time I will tackle one of my glaring issues: voice! making sure each character is identifiable without seeing the dialogue tag!

til then – Enjoy Playing with Words!

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