Starting After “The End”: Revisions
Starting After “The End”: Revisions
One of the most exciting things about writing is being able to put that big “THE END” at the last page of your novel manuscript, epic poem, short story, what have you. It is SO rewarding. (Don’t act like you don’t do it!) And it makes you feel like this:
But what happens when it’s over? When the piece you have labored on for days, weeks, months, years (yikes!) is done. I mean, once you put “THE END” on a piece, it’s perfect. There really isn’t anything else you need to do. Except, of course, submit it to agents, editors, teachers, etc., and wait for the praise to come. Because it will come. Right?
What happens when that doesn’t happen?
What happens when the “end” isn’t really the end? What happens when it’s just the beginning? For most of us, the end, this first end, isn’t actually the end. So what do you do? What do you do after you finish a novel, set it aside for a month or two, and then realize it sucks?
Sometimes your baby doesn’t turn out like you thought it would and all you really can do is… revise. Yep. Revisions. Most writers either hate ‘em or love ‘em. I happen to be in the “love” group. I don’t really outline so revising, for me, is all about restructuring my “beautiful” work.
Here’s my process:
- I reread it. No pens in hand. I go over it like one might read a book they’ve been dying to read: in one sitting. This usually consists of me laughing, crying, laughing some more and realizing it doesn’t suck as bad as I thought. (Yay!!!) However, by the time I’m done, I should have some idea of what needs to be fixed.
- I reread it again. Pens in hand. I like red pens. I also like pink and purple pens. (I have lots of colorful pens.) But it really doesn’t matter the color of the pen so long as the manuscript is in my hand this round. By that I mean I need to print it out. (*cue screams, etc. about wasting paper*–I know, but it helps.) I print it out and read it as if it’s not even mine. I pretend I’m my worst critic. I start, maybe with the red pen, picking apart structural issues: why does she say she only has a brother in this scene and only a sister in the next? For my recent mystery novel I realized several clues didn’t match up. Then I pick another color and make note of times the character isn’t acting herself. I like to call these times when Patrice is pushing her agenda as the writer instead of letting the character react. Then I pick another color and edit for grammar. I do this as many times as I need for the issues my story has.
- I edit using my handy dandy marked up manuscript (see #2). Sometimes I start with grammar, especially if I don’t know how to fix the structural issues. Sometimes I begin with the character because, let’s face it, if your character isn’t “on point,” your story won’t be either.
- I spend at least one day revising my opening scene. A lot of times I write a scene that I, as the writer, think the reader needs for a beginning. With my most recent MS, I knew she was a retired con artist who for some reason was at a criminals anonymous support group that took place in a Catholic church. So when I edited, it was not the scene, per se, that I changed, it was the layout. Remember, you have write how your character would see things. Whereas I might notice the people first and whereas I generally use parenthetical asides, etc. my character’s a very direct person. So I had to revise that scene, and others, with her in mind.
- I continue to revise and edit until I think it’s ready. And then I send it to friends, critique partners, people I trust to be brutally honest. With their help, I revise again.
- Then I set it free!
Hopefully my steps will help you with your own revisions! Remember, in writing, the “ending” is really a beginning of a whole new process. Dig in, keep improving things, and enjoy the ride.
*For some help with #4, or character in general, I love this post by author Chuck Wendig: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/10/28/plot-and-character/ I often use his guide after I’ve finished writing the story to provide clarification on who my character is and to hone into her voice.