revision!

Jul. 15th, 2010 11:50 pm
jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
[personal profile] jazzfish posting in [community profile] writers
I have a first draft! I finished something! It has all the awkward inbetween bits filled in with text other than "And then they explain this part"!

... only it's awful. The pacing's all off, the characterization changes midstream, there are plot hooks that don't connect to anything and other parts of plot that desperately need hooking earlier. In short, it's a first draft.

I've never really gotten anything to this point before, not with something I thought actually had any potential. So I'm basically going to be making up my process as I go. (Current writing process: entire story in an OpenOffice document, with a .txt of notes and deleted scene fragments open beside it.)

How do you go about revising? Any useful tips?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-07-16 04:49 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] revolutemind
Upon getting something I'll regard as a draft, I try to let it sit for at least three weeks before taking a look at it again. If I look at it and still hate it, back off the desktop it all goes. Then I'll catch a wild hair one day, try to get back to the house still on fire, to chop it to bits. Then I sit back, read the hacked mess, and start the whole compulsive process over again.

Tips? Boy, that's like giving tips about how to catch fish. Can one counsel patience? Be very, very satisfied with hitting a leg double your first-at-bat. Maybe sacrifice fly is better. I've had to teach myself how to do this, and I'm still not very good at it.

Good luck.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-07-16 06:18 am (UTC)
sweet_sparrow: Miaka (Fushigi Yûgi) looking very happy. (Work)
From: [personal profile] sweet_sparrow
I have to agree with [personal profile] revolutemind, let the story rest a while so you can look at with fresh eyes. And if you can, find a betareader or two for their feedback to add into your considerations.

Read through it (a couple of times) and take more notes for you to use. The fresh eyes can really help with that, though if you're a seats-of-your-pants writer, that may not work so well. Don't try to fix everything at once. Chances are you'll end up doing that anyway because you're rewriting the whole darned thing, but sometimes it can help to fix things in stages.
"Start with the massive problems. Take a break. Read over it again. Fix the now-biggest problems. Take a break. Read over it again. Etc." until you're happy with it, that kind of stages.

But mostly... Just try approaches until you find what works for you. The only thing that comes close to being a must is taking a break from it for a while to give your brain a chance to rest and come back to it revived and ready to see what is instead of what you think may be.

Congratulations on finishing the rough draft and good luck with the rewriting! ^-^

(no subject)

Date: 2010-07-16 05:23 pm (UTC)
sweet_sparrow: Miaka (Fushigi Yûgi) looking very happy. (Having Fun)
From: [personal profile] sweet_sparrow
My suggestion there would be to try and stop worrying. And also not to try fixing only the big stuff. Chances are, you'll fix smaller stuff along the way anyway. Sometimes fixing some of the big stuff may automatically fix something smaller too. The trick is in your focusing. It's fine to fix small issues along with big ones, just as long as you make sure you're tackling the big issues.

And, yes, distance from the text is as close to a must as you're going to get. If you don't, your mind'll just read what it thinks the text says rather than what it actually does, and that's not very helpful. (As a side-bonus, sometimes you may find that something you thought sucked actually isn't that bad. This was my reaction when I reread one of my stories recently. It could be better, but it's not that bad the way it stands.)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-07-16 05:55 pm (UTC)
anthimeria: Gears, some magnified (Gears)
From: [personal profile] anthimeria
As for not fixing everything at once, for me, it usually helps to take notes on my first read-through after it sits for a while (yes, I also advocate taking a break), and then organize my notes. While you're right that broken things are often entwined, taking on the whole thing at once is too much, so having the control to say "Today I will focus on fixing plot holes!" is important.

Sometimes, fixing one problem can cause others, but don't let that stop you! You can fix those problems later. Remember, no one's breathing down your neck and making you do this, even though it can feel like it sometimes. When it stops being fun hard work and starts just being frustrating or annoying, it's time to step back again.

For me, I usually have to step back two or three times in the editing process, to get distance and let the frustration die down. It takes me as long or longer to edit short stories as it does novels, because I need that distance no matter what.

Also, a tip: you decide what makes a draft. Since it doesn't matter how many drafts you have in the end, you can choose whether you want a draft to be "I've fixed all the problems I can see for now!" or "I fixed characterization and want that draft number to go up! Hah!"

(I use both, depending on what I'm editing!)

Ooh, second tip: from Tobias Buckell, a published author--when going through your drafts for grammar/mechanics, go backward so that the page and line in both drafts always match up.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-07-16 10:58 am (UTC)
stripped: (Default)
From: [personal profile] stripped
I have to echo the take a break from it that's already been said. I've been sitting on one novel I finished in December. About a month ago, I reread half of it and realized that one novel was meant to be two. I tucked it back on the back burner until my brain coughs up what's going to need to go into those 35k words to double them in size.

I also have to echo the importance of a beta reader. Critique is painful. It's really hard to let someone read what you've written and point out the flaws to you (even though you know they're there). But it's important, and no published writer out there does it without having someone who reads their work first and offers critique. I have a more recent novel I just finished, and I've heard back from two of my four first readers, and one was... well, she was the one I knew I needed opinions from most, and she entirely tore apart one of my major subplots because she couldn't find a reason for it to be in the book. Now, this doesn't mean the subplot is bad, or wrong, but that if she couldn't see why it was there, I hadn't done my job as a writer in laying the groundwork for it to make sense. I knew there was a problem with that particular subplot and talking to her made solutions take form in my mind, and I've been jotting down notes for the last few days, trying to figure out how I can rework it.

But having someone to talk to, having another pair of eyes, this is critically important. Let it rest. Absorb critique. Let the back brain figure out how to fix it, and then (as has already been said) attack it one major problem at a time. Look at characterization first maybe, and while you're fixing that, take note of the plot hooks that are unwoven so you can figure out what to do with those on the next pass. Continue to refine the characterization in the second pass, while you work on plot, because it will be affected by it. Just keep slowly refining your process.

For the record, I have a habit of taking months and/or years to revise things. Sometimes letting things sit really does make it come crystal clear. At least it does for me.

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