Sooz’s Guide to Revisions, Lesson 1: What the heck did you write?
If you saw the post on Wednesday, then you know where we’re heading with revisions. First, we have to make revision goals. To do that, we have to establish what you WANT to have when you finish revising. But to do that, you have to first know what you ACTUALLY have.
We’re going to figure this out by reading our novel and making note of big picture problems. Big picture problems include anything that require more than just a sentence tweak or dialogue-tightening. These are the pieces of the novel that tell the story–the skeleton and muscle of your book.
So, let’s dive into this very first lesson, shall we? I’ll walk you through it step-by-step. Also, if you want to print this out or save it, I will make it available as a PDF on the For Writers page.
Supplies needed today:
- Multi-colored pens (at least 4 colors)
- Index cards
- A printed copy of your entire manuscript
So what the heck did you write?
1. Print your manuscript in it’s entirety.* Preferably double-spaced for easier writing-in, but do whatever you can do. Also be sure your pages are numbered… Trust me when I say you don’t wanna mess with having to organize unnumbered pages. (If you don’t have a printer, most office supply stores can print for you.)
*Okay, so I realize not everyone can or will print their MS. Just know that when I explain how I revise, I am assuming you have a printed copy of your novel. Do what you can. ♥
2. Read through the entire manuscript in one sitting (if possible). You want to read the whole thing together because everything will be much fresher in your mind, making plot problems, inconsistencies, etc. easier to spot. Find a nice, uninterrupted spot to do this. If you can’t read the whole thing at once, then try to do it with as little time between readings.
3. As you read, you will be using the following worksheets to identify problems in these areas:
- How to Use the Worksheets
- Sooz’s Plot Problems Worksheet
- Sooz’s Character Problems Worksheet
- Sooz’s Setting Problems Worksheet
- Sooz’s Other Problems Worksheet
4. When you see a problem,use a colored pen to mark it in the margin (this is explained in detail on the How to Use the Worksheets). My color-coding is as seen in the picture →
5. DO NOT MAKE CORRECTIONS ON THE MANUSCRIPT. When there are major problems with plot, character, voice, whatever, you will likely be cutting large portions of the text, moving chunks around, writing new scenes, etc. It’s a waste of your time to line-edit words that will end up cut or drastically altered
I learned this the hard way after spending MONTHS editing small things that wound up being removed. Just like working if you were working with a publishing editor, you will do line-edits and small stuff LAST.
And so, my friends, we are finished with Lesson 1. It’s a lot to absorb and a lot of work—I don’t expect you to rush through it! But, if you’re finished by next Monday, then get ready for Lesson 2! We’ll be setting our goals and planning The Perfect Book.
Now, get head on over to the worksheets and get started finding your big picture problems!
In Lesson 3: On Monday, we’ll be getting organized! This involves breaking that manuscript into manageable, bite-size chunks.
And if you have ANY questions, ask them in the comments!!
Lesson 1 → Lesson 2 → Lesson 3 → Lesson 4 → Lesson 5 → Lesson 6 →
May 13, 2011 @ 10:05 am
Sooz, you are like a writing angel! This is so awesome. I feel like I have spent months on the little things…I think because I was daunted by the bit things, but this organization gives me hope 🙂
May 13, 2011 @ 10:23 am
First of all, :D! Being called in angel is always rather nice. I’m glad you find this helpful!
Second of all, revising used to scare the crud out of me! So many words–how did I keep track of it all, and what if I changed the wrong thing? Yeah, getting organized and using my left-brain to prep and plan for revisions has turned me into a very effective writing machine! (Which I need to be since my first drafts are sooooooo baaaaaad.)
May 13, 2011 @ 2:35 pm
Wow, I knew you were organized, but this is incredible!
May 13, 2011 @ 4:39 pm
Oh wow, Holly, you have no idea. It gets WAY more organized from here…but it’s let me meet all of my editorial deadlines early–so that’s a plus!! 😀
May 13, 2011 @ 3:57 pm
This is awesome. My revision process is fairly similar. I must must MUST print it out. I can’t revise on screen. Never have been able to. I color code too, but I mostly use tabs to identify issues that need fixing.
And I agree with Laura. You are a writing angel!
May 13, 2011 @ 4:40 pm
I remember seeing your MS before–the tabs are really similar to what I put on my outline… Yeah, I’ll get to all that in later lessons. 🙂
May 15, 2011 @ 6:25 am
Just what I need. I’m ready to start working on my 1st ms. Thank you for making it less daunting! Still working on 1st person (2nd) ms. I really enjoy your topics- puleese keep them coming! =}
May 15, 2011 @ 9:31 am
You’re very welcome, Jan! I hope you can get some use out of these lessons. 😀
August 12, 2013 @ 6:11 pm
Am just about to embark on this, so this is excellent seredipity! I’m so glad I discovered your blog.
November 5, 2013 @ 12:00 am
I can’t wait to try this revision process of yours for my second edit of my novel. 🙂 Thanks again for sharing your revision processes. 🙂
February 12, 2014 @ 11:51 pm
Oh, I’m doing a happy dance in my computer chair! I ran across these posts about a thousand years ago and lost the link! I’ve been trying desperately to find them (thank you Pinterest) and I am just SO happy to have succeeded. These are great. Thanks so much!
February 15, 2014 @ 10:03 pm
So glad you found it, Janice!! 😀 Happy revising!
May 1, 2014 @ 11:45 am
Thanks for doing this. I know It must have taken a long time. Very helpful.
January 9, 2015 @ 10:46 am
Do you have to do a creative writing course to be a writer? I can’t afford it, but feel if I don’t then I’m missing out or something, or don’t have the “stamp” that says I get to be a writer…
July 21, 2017 @ 2:25 am
I just want to say that I find it helpful to, before you revise, go through and list ALL of the characters in your novel and some facts about them: their full name, their age, what role they play in the book (eg: protagonist, antagonist, ect) and their goal, and whatever else you may want to list. It doesn’t matter if all of these may never be revealed in the book. If you can’t list over half of these things, then you may want to reconsider their role in the book. (Unless they’re a very minor character, such as the cashier at a cafe or something along those lines.)
February 1, 2018 @ 11:27 pm
Just FYI, the link to “How to use the Worksheets” in the numbered list of PDFs is correct, but the link in step 4 gives a 404 file not found (it doesn’t have the 1 at the end of the pdf name).
Writing Resources. – BETWIXT
August 29, 2021 @ 4:27 pm
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