Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How I Revise: Insurgent Edition

I'm not a huge fan of coming up with a revising system. I've heard before that every book is different, and I've found that to be true. Some come out quickly and easily. Some are painful and difficult. Some have gaping plot holes that need to be patched; some are coherent from the get-go but need work in other areas. I don't think how much revision is required necessarily reflects poorly on the work or on the writer. I do think revision is when the real work is done, and because each book is different, I've never done it the same way twice. I may find a good system later, when I have more experience, but right now I'm letting what the book requires dictate how I revise it.

Divergent came out clean and well-paced, but it was sparse and unbalanced. And Insurgent? Well, it came out as a big mess, like I hurled every single idea I had into a word document and then had to sort through it to find the good stuff. Finally, during this round of edits, I feel like it's clean again, and I thought it might be interesting to show you what I did with it.

I don't usually use Scrivener, but that's mostly because I had a PC until earlier this year, and they only just came out with Scrivener for Windows. So I didn't write the Insurgent draft in Scrivener, I wrote it in Word and decided to revise it in Scrivener this time. First I fed the manuscript in by importing the document and splitting it into chapters. Then I further subdivided it into manageable sections. Note: the actual manuscript doesn't have parts (you know, with a separate page saying PART 2, etc.), these are just chunks I found useful for editing purposes.

Then I imported my editorial letter, my agent's notes, and my notes from earlier rounds of revisions so that they were all in the same place and I could refer to them easily.

But most importantly, I made lists. I made a list of each character's goals/motivations (and each faction's goals/motivations) so that I could keep the characters consistent and make sure they weren't flat. I made a list of issues I still wasn't sure how to resolve so that I could continue to think about it as I work. And I made a checklist for what to keep in mind while editing the first section. Here, have a look:

When I work, I split the screen so that I can look at the chapter I'm working on on one side, and the editorial checklist for the section on the other side, (and on the far right, comments for the chapter itself, but that's not in this screenshot):

I also used color coding to help myself keep track and to give myself a visual representation of my progress. Blue means "I'm finished! Yay!" and yellow means "I'm currently working on this":

One thing I have used with every manuscript I've revised is checklists. Most of the time those lists are huge, like a page long, and arranged in order of difficulty. (Most difficult first, least difficult last.) This time I decided to go through the manuscript in order instead of arranging things in order of difficulty. It just made more sense for the draft.

That's how I'm revising! How about you?


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