One of the things I’ve been working on this past year has been revamping my writing process. As most writers know, your writing process is never static. It evolves over time, changing to meet the demands on your time, the book you are writing, and your growth as a person. I’ve streamlined the writing process a bit, and now I am revising the revision process.
I’m a semi-pantser. I go into a story with a very basic outline—usually a beginning and end, the beats in between, and a few other scenes that have come to me strongly. My first draft can be considered a massive detailed outline. By the time I reach the end, I know who my characters are, and I understand the story I am telling—which is not always the story I thought I was telling.
Then comes the massive revision—which is the tradeoff that pantsers make Plotters spend a ton of time planning before they write, and so often don’t have as much to revise, where pansters spend most of their time in the revision process.
Revising a story has so many facets, it’s easy to get revision paralysis and not know where to begin. I decided to start at a basic level and make sure that every chapter in the book was linked into the cause-and-effect chain. Having the causal links established makes the story hang together and keeps the reader turning the pages. Turns out that I did a good job with that, as I only found one chapter that didn’t seem to cause any effect down the road. So I added one to it.
I also needed to check voice, character arc, stakes, scene goals/conflict, and sensory details (I tend to forget the sensory stuff, so it is a major part of my revision process). Wow, so much to keep track of—and I have 3 point of view characters in this book as well. So I turned to my trusty Excel spreadsheet and created the following chart for each character, and filled it in.
I’m still working on this part, but it has been helpful so far.
One thing I now know about this new revision process I am working on is that I am doing it out of order. I need to integrate some of these steps earlier in the overall writing process. I spent a lot of time rewriting my original before I ever looked at the causal chain or the details of the character arc, or the scene-level conflict/goal/stakes. I need to do that earlier, so my rewriting is more focused. I don’t regret the rewriting I did (it made the story much better even on its own), but if I can streamline the writing process more, I can get the books out faster.
Now that I have a handle on my revision process, I think my next book will be written much faster. But first I have to finish this one!
Do you have any revision tips to share? Do you periodically reassess your writing process to see how you can make it better?