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Lesson 6 Revising

Finally, the Main Event

I know you’re all thinking, Thank goodness, Sooz. Finally we get to do the thing you said we’d do from the start.

Thank you for your patience and hard work up until this point! All of that effort is now going to pay off as you take your newly updated scene cards—a.k.a. your Plan of Attack—and go through your printed manuscript.

Or if you’d rather work in a digital format, that is totally okay. I work faster by hand because that is how my brain is wired…but then that does mean I have to type in all of my changes at a later time.

If you don’t know what you prefer, then I suggest starting out with your printed manuscript and some pens…and then shifting to a digital format if that really isn’t feeling natural for you.

Start Making Changes

With your scene cards, go through the one by one. I would suggest you go chronologically, unless you know you work better in a different order.

I’m going to assume you’re working from scene 1 to the end, though.

So we take our first card, we look at all the notes on it…and we start to make those changes.

Break It Down by Story Problem

There are now two ways you can go about actually making your changes. First: you can break it down by problem.

So for example, if I know I need to introduce the ticking bomb, then I will find a place in that first scene where I can insert some lines or paragraphs about it.

And of course, because I’m introducing something new that will have ripple effects, I will likely go through and make sure there is nowhere else in the scene where that newly introduced bomb needs to show up.

Then I will strike that off the scene card and move to the next problem.

Oh, I need to introduce Iris and the backstory now too? Okay, let’s comb through the scene and fin a place to do that—as well as any “ripples” that need to be added too.

Read through the scene and change

Alternatively, you could read through the scene and make edits as you go.

So keep your card nearby for constant consulting, then as you read, look for places to add any of the necessary changes and resulting ripples.

I’ll be honest with you all that sometimes I operate this way, sometimes I do the former. It really depends on how much I want to reread the entire manuscript again right now versus later on.

If I don’t want to reread it all again now, then I’ll go with option one: just adding and changing according to problem. But I only do that with the knowledge that I will be rereading the whole book again later for polishing and fine-tuning.

Move to the Next Scene

When you finish scene 1, move onto scene 2…and then 3 and then 4…and you get the point after that.

I personally like to keep track of my “ripples” and add them later cards in the scene deck. So, in other words: if there are areas I know where I might want to reference an earlier change, I will make note of that on the index cards

For example, I remember adding into the second Luminaries book, The Hunting Moon, a metaphor about Pompeii I really liked. So I made a note to add that same metaphor at a later point in the story as well, where I felt it would again be relevant—and also add a nice resonance to Winnie’s story.

Keep Going Until You Reach the End

This step can take a long time. Probably the longest time, since it’s the actual End Goal for revisions in the first place: changing the book to match your vision of perfection.

Be patient with yourself, and take breaks if you have to. You’ve done the hard work of finding the problems and solutions. Now it’s just a matter of applying them.

Check Your Master List

When you finish resolving a story problem, make sure you tick it off on your Master List of Solutions! Nothing is more satisfying than watching that list get smaller and smaller.

It’s such a very clear sign of all your progress and improvements!

Save Everything

If you’re not working by hand, make sure you save all your earlier drafts and versions. You never know when you might need to add something…only to realize you wrote the perfect line in an earlier chapter you cut!

I love Scrivener’s Snapshot feature for this, or else Track Changes in Word.

And of course, since I personally and usually working on a printed manuscript, the original words are still right there! Nothing on my hard drive has actually been changed yet.

Start Over If You Have To

I have said this before: but if you have a better idea, then go ahead and make it.

Don’t stick to your Master List of Solutions simply because it’s right there waiting to be checked off. If you find a better solution for a story problem, then go for it! Better go back and make the changes now than edit the entire manuscript wrong and have to start over again!

And if you’re like me: you will read through the book several times before you ever start typing in handwritten changes.

Yes, I will do a full pass of the book. Then I will go back to the beginning and do a second pass in which I smooth out prose, blend in new additions better, make sure nothing is redundant, and generally just make the whole book stronger.

My ultimate goal is to get as close to a perfect translation as I can get! And if that means I have to do multiple passes to reach my vision, then so be it.

Type In the Changes

If you’ve handwritten your changes like I do, then now is the time to type all those changes in.

Look: this step is boring and slow and pretty mindless. BUT, it does afford you one more chance to make sure you like all the changes you’ve made to the story and to polish any prose you’re not sure about.

I realize why many people prefer not to have to do this step—and why they therefore prefer to work directly on their manuscript digitally. And that’s fine!

For me, my creativity is very tactile. I will always work more quickly, more comfortably, and more happily when I work by hand with a pen and paper. (It also keeps me from getting distracted by the internet!) But if that’s now how you feel your most creative, then that is okay.

You do you.

And if you don’t yet know, then I again urge you to at least try the handwritten route! For many people, it’s a great way to lock up new creative centers in their brain!

And that, my dear writers, is the end of the Beginner’s Guide to Revising. Assuming you’re actually done revising now—and you have even typed in all the changes—how are you feeling?

Do you think you’re close to the Perfect Book? Do you still sense there is a gap between your vision and the translation on the page?

It is okay if the answer is yes! I have been working on some of my manuscripts for over a decade because I just cannot get the story on the page to match what I see in my head. But I love the stories enough to keep trying, keep revising, keep coming back for more.

And sometimes, we can’t tell if our books are doing what we want them to do. And in those instances, we must turn to outside readers to help us along. This is not a flaw in the system; it is a characteristic of it.

All writers need outside help and now that you’ve revised your book, you’re in a position to ask for it!

Good luck, dear writer, and thank you for taking this course with me! I hope you’re proud of all the hard work you’ve done. 💚