I’m going to be the first person to tell you: I suck at revisions. They are not my friend. They are not easy. Someone once said you have to kill your darlings and that is absolutely the truth.
My agent Kim Whalen is getting ready to pitch my War’s Darkest Trilogy to editors. While I know that I’m not expected to have all three books ready to go before editors, I’d like to go into the pitch session knowing they aren’t completely crap, which is what my first drafts tend to be. Especially since my first draft of my third book in this series was written over 8 months ago.
My fabulous critique partner doesn’t have the time to start on a ms from scratch. I’ve had to develop ways of fixing stuff before I send it to her so that she can really rip me a new one on the important things rather than awkward wording and plot, if that makes sense.
I needed a revision makeover.
There are tons of classes out there on how to revise. I learned a ton from Margie Lawsons Deep EDITS class. It was really interesting. But for me, its along the lines of trying to get me to write a book while outlining. I simply cannot do it.
My mentor told me once that each scene has to build on the last and if it doesn’t, then it needs to be cut. The single best learning experience for me was to write a syn where each scene was lined up (of a book I’d already written but could not for the life of me spot the problems in it) and figure out how it advances the plot. It was a great technique that I used exactly one time and I ended up throwing that draft completely away and writing the book over.
I’ve done that now with two books and the new drafts are better for it.
But this third book that I’m working on specifically for my trilogy pitch is different. I like the story. I think the heart of the story is still there but, like most of my early drafts, there’s a lot of excess that needs to be cut. My biggest challenge with self editing in the past has been being unable to clearly see what needs to go and what can stay.
So I’ve changed how I see the manuscript. I write in Scrivener. Love it. Won’t write in anything else unless forced to by gun point. But for this book, War’s Darkest Sin, I’m trying something different.
I’m editing it in Word. I’m using track changes to go through the entire manuscript like I would a critique partner and you know what? It’s helping me read it like it isn’t my own stuff. I’m able to feel where the beats are off, where the pacing dies, where something is completely extraneous to the plot. I feel the characters where they’re out of place and I’m able to mark it up and keep it in one document so that I’ve got notes. I’m lining through entire sections of text and leaving myself reasons why it isn’t working. And I’m leaving myself snarky comments explaining why something sucks or is too heavy handed.
I’m critiquing partnering my own work. The results? I’m going through about 50 pages a day, making notes, changing text, outlining changes to scenes. While it’s not formal out lining, it’s loose enough for it to be effective for me. When I’m done going through the manuscript on Word, then I’m going to crack open Scrivener and start up in there. Hacking and slashing and finding the heart of the story.
Hopefully, I’ll come out on the other side with a better product that my real critique partner can then slice to shreds before it goes to (fingers crossed) an editor.
Writing is a process. The first draft is the easy part. It’s being able to kill your darlings that makes a difference.