I am really good at first drafts. I excel at them. I have participated in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) six times and I have won every time I participated. I like to brag about this because while it only takes me a month, on average, to write a novel, it took me seven months to revise Fae Hunter. Part of the reason it took me so long was that I had not yet figured out how to even begin to tackle the revision process. There are a lot of books on writing, but not so many on the process of revision.
In January of this year I took a class on “Novel Re-Vision.” We met every Saturday for two months. The beginning of each class was focused on critique and the rest of the class was focused on pulling our manuscripts apart. This class took me through every possible exercise on cleaning up my story. I found out what I needed to do in order to make it through to the other end and hit “publish.” I also came up with a few things on my own to make the revision process a little more fun.
Before you can revise you need to let the story sit and marinate. Step away from it. For me that means not touching it at all for two weeks. Today is the two-week mark for Fae Guardian which means I start the daunting task of revision.
Revision Step One: Read your manuscript from beginning to end.
Ideally you should read the entire manuscript in 1-2 days. For me that isn’t possible given that I work full-time. I give myself a week. You can print out your manuscript, killing a few trees in the process, or you can send a copy to your eReader. I find that reading my first draft on my Kindle is a great way to see my book as a reader would see it. It is also a lot easier as I balance my coffee cup in one hand and my Kindle in the other on the bus during my daily commute into the city.
While I am reading I keep a small notebook nearby to note any scenes that don’t work or things I would like to add. However, it is just as important to make notes of what you like. As you tear apart this manuscript there are days when all of it will look like it needs to be buried in the backyard. On those days look back at this “I like it” list to remind yourself of what parts of the story drew you in when you did your read through and also to remind yourself that you don’t suck!