Revisions Are Your Friend
Some of you may know I completed the first draft of book 2 on New Years Eve. Like all first drafts, it needs serious help. It’s about 50,000 words too long and has just about every problem a first draft could have. There are some nuggets of gold in there, though, and I know with all my heart it will turn out to be a great book. I plan to start revising on Imbolc (February 2) because that’s the feast of Brigid, the Celtic goddess of inspiration (and also smithery and healing/midwifery).
I’m nearing the end of my “put it away for a month” distancing period. That means it’s time to get serious. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I had no revising plan with the first book. It was a completely green author flying blind and I learned as I went along. As a result, it took me years to do it. This time around, I’ve come up with a plan that I think will work, or at least can be revised to work, long into the future. It better, because I plan on writing many more books after this.
Today I want to tell you a little about one of my favorite revision tools, courtesy of Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris (If you’re a writer, read it. You’ll thank yourself.). It’s called the Beat Sheet. I’m not going to give you all the details because that would cheat wonderful Roz out of book sales, but here’s an overview. It’s a tool developed by screenwriters to make sure that their movies have appropriate pacing and emotional arcs. You list out every single scene in your book and chart for each one the purpose of the scene, the dominant emotion, the pacing, who holds the power, character motivation and other items. You end up with a very long, very colorful roadmap of your book when you’re done. I used it for book 1 and it was by far the most effective thing I did. Roz advises using it before you begin to revise your first draft, but my first drafts are so messy that I prefer to use it later in the process, once the book stops looking like a three-year-old wrote it. Although I may have to change my mind on this one. It may provide just the unbiased distance I need when undertaking what feels like an overwhelming task.
I may whine about it along the way, but I know from experience that revising is the only way to turn a good book into a great one, and I can’t wait to get started.
So, writers, what does your revision process look like? What works for you? I’d love it if we could learn from each other.