Beginning the Journey: Alex’s Guide to Revision Part 1

I’m about to start the editing journey again. Those long days of eating bags of chips and hitting your head against a wall because you just can’t word, dang it—yep, that’ll be me.

Truth be told, revisions aren’t too easy for me. They never have been. But I’ve come a long way from the fourteen-year-old who thought hunting for typos and changing a couple words constituted SUPER MAJOR AUTHORLY REVISION. So I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned.

  1. Let it sit.

Hopefully, you already know this one. I did too, during my first ‘revision’, but I was so gung-ho on getting it done before grade eleven started (a hint of my unrealistic timeline: I finished the story two weeks before school) that I only let it sit for three days.

because alex didn't know what revision was

Ladies and gents, please roll your eyes at me, because I’m a dumbbutt.

Don’t be me. Please. I’m begging you. Let it sit for at least (at least) a week. Preferably two or three. I haven’t looked at my manuscript since New Year’s. I MISS IT. You may miss your story too. But please, just let it sit. Because when you come back to it, it’ll be that much easier to look at it critically.

  1. Save it under a new file, and change the font.

I talked about this before in my last post on revision. It’s a really weird trick, but it works: change up your font. It helps you disconnect from the writing even more by making the text seem fresher. This works best if you do a drastic font change, like from Times New Roman to Arial or something. If the fonts look too similar, it might not work as well.

Then you can either:

  • Print it out.

Go to Staples and print all those pages out. You can even order the print job online! If you go to the Staples Print and Copy Center website, you can sign up and get a quote of how much it’ll cost you. It’s pretty cheap—my 240+ page manuscript comes down to about $20 CAD. That’s pretty good.

  • Turn on Track Changes.

Or whatever editing function your word processor has. I like Microsoft’s Track Changes because it keeps a log of all the changes you’ve done (huh, who’d have guessed?) and when I’m looking over my edits, I can choose which version I like better. And you can also set it so while you’re doing the editing, the changes you make will stay hidden until you want to see them again.

  1. Read it over.

Read it over. That’s all. Don’t edit it—just read it over and add comments where necessary. Leave a comment or two in the margins (or in one of Word’s nice pink comment bubbles) about what you want to change. My previous comments have ranged from need more emotion here to move this to the next chapter to what’s going on???? This way, when you start the actual editing, you’ll already have an idea of what you need to fix.

Things to think about: where does the pacing drop off? If you were a literary agent, where would you stop? Does the writing feel too choppy? Are you showing or telling? Does this scene seem out of place? Can it be moved or cut? Are you giving too much unnecessary background? Does the dialogue seem flat?

  1. Go back to your plot outline.

Or, if you don’t yet have one, make one. Now that you’ve looked over your story and have it fresh in your head, you should go back to your outline to see what works and what doesn’t. Do the scenes you have listed make sense? Do you need to add more? Take a couple out?

Think about how the story flows. Does your narrative structure seem choppy, or does it flow smoothly? Does it start off fast-paced but sag around the middle? Does it start at the right moment?

Think about pace. Think about the stakes and the underlying themes. Make sure everything makes sense.

Think about all these things. Make a list of all your major plot points, and keep a note of them. Then, it’s time to move on to the next step: character.

Part 2 of Alex’s Guide to Revision, Badass-ify Those Characters, comes out Monday, February 8.

What steps do you use to prepare for a revision?

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