Last week I talked about the trepidation I felt when beginning to revise my story (Part one here). While writing my first draft any doubts, questions, or concerns I had about the story were pushed away until the end of the first draft. I told myself to just keep writing, no matter how sketchy the details or how rushed some scenes were. Everything would be fixed with the magical second draft.
Once I found myself at the second draft, I realized there was no magic that was going to suddenly help me understand how to transform my story, and that I would have to do it myself. Since I had no idea how to do such, I decided to try a few things and see how they worked for me.
Now I’m back to tell you what worked and what didn’t.
To Print or Not to Print
The first thing I had to decide was whether or not to read my first draft through and make notes in Scrivener (the program I use to write) or to print it out and read it on paper.
Quite a few sources advocated printing a copy of your manuscript out when revising, but in spite of the advice, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it that way. For one, that’s a lot of paper. But besides that, I thought it would be easier to continue using Scrivener. It allows you to make notes and highlight just like you would be able to do on paper, and I would be able to make small changes right then instead of marking it on paper and then having to go back and make the changes on the computer later. It seemed like it would be less hassle and faster to continue using Scrivener.
But because I’ve never done this before, I decided to try both.
I read the first 8 chapters on Scrivener. I liked being able to change little things right then. Like deleting sentences I didn’t want or rewording things that sounded confusing. I liked that when I’d come across something that I may have changed in a different chapter, I could easily go to that chapter and make sure what ever I was saying matched. I also liked that I could immediately add world building details into the chapters. For instance, when I started writing I didn’t know what the soldiers in my world would wear so there was not much description about what their appearance when they were mentioned.
When I came across a scene with soldiers in it (which happened to be the first chapter) I could immediately open the page that I had all my world building information in, find what I already had about soldiers, and add a few lines about what their uniforms would look like.
I can’t stand having things written in different places because it’s hard to find when you need to reference it later and you waste writing time trying to find it, so if I were reading my manuscript on paper at that point, I would have had to get my laptop, turn it on, open Scrivener, and then add the information (three whole steps is just too much work 😀 ).
Once I was finished reading the first 8 chapters, I printed out the next 2 to see how reading a paper copy would go. I absolutely fell in love. There’s something satisfying about seeing your words in print, even if it wasn’t a publishing house that printed it. My story seemed a little more real now that I was holding it in my hands.
Besides the extra coolness factor of seeing my work printed, it made it a lot easier to read. I think after seven months of staring at words on a computer screen, my brain was starting to rebel. I found it much easier to focus on what I was reading when looking at a printed page. Maybe my brain went into reading-a-book mode. Which means fun, not work.
The other benefit of reading my manuscript on paper was that I seemed to be getting through the chapters a lot faster. This was probably because I wasn’t stopping to look things up in other chapters, thinking about how a paragraph should be changed, or spending time coming up with little details about the world or characters that I hadn’t thought about before.
Yes, I did just say that being able to make these changes on the spot was what I liked about reading it on Scrivener, but as much as I liked fiddling with my chapters right then and there, I’ve realized that it may actually be faster to simply mark what needs to be changed or expounded on and spend time on it when I actually come back and write the second draft.
Rainbow of Highlighters
One other thing I liked about having a paper printout was all the highlighters I got to use. Yes, you can highlight things on the computer, but there was something nice about going old school and using actual highlighters. Again, maybe it just gave my brain a break from the computers screen and mouse.
As charming as highlighters are, there is a more practical reason for why I liked using them. Before I printed my chapters out, I didn’t have a system of any kind to keep track of what I wanted to change or what I needed to look up. I just made a bunch of notes.
I saw in a blog post somewhere where the person picked a color for different things they wanted to keep track of and I liked that idea, so I decided to make my own color-coded system.
Pink—things that need to be researched (These are things that I need to look up outside of the document. Things like fighting styles, types of swords, what happens to your body when it doesn’t have food. Or even grammar rules.)
Dark green—things that need to be looked up in another chapter (This is when I’ve run into discrepancies between chapters. Like in one chapter I said Faiza had red eyebrows and in another I had Dalan notice that they weren’t red like her hair, but darker. I guess one eyebrow is red and one isn’t! :D)
Blue—Dalan’s character arc (This wasn’t something that needed changing so much as something that I wanted to watch over the course of the story. All protagonists should change throughout a story and this gives me a way to keep track of scenes that show who Dalan is at the beginning of the story, and then scenes that show how he’s changed toward the end of the story. This will let me know if I need to add more scenes or more detail to existing scenes that show Dalan’s character arc.)
Light green—Ethan’s character arc (Unlike the blog version, Ethan is a viewpoint character which means he needs a character arc of his own. So, same thing as I wrote above except about Ethan not Dalan 😉 ).
Yellow—boring (This is pretty self-explanatory. Anytime I find myself getting bored with what I’m reading, I pull out the yellow highlighter. This will let me know what I either need to get rid of or spice up in draft two. I do have to be careful that it is actually what I’m reading that’s boring and that I’m not feeling bored because I’m thinking of something else I’d rather be doing, or that I’m feeling bored because I’m having trouble getting into the story because I’m in a busy place and distractions are making it difficult to get into the story [like when I’m trying to read my manuscript at work…shh, don’t tell]. Because, of course, nothing I write is boring. 😉 ).
This method has worked really well for me so far. I’m lucky to have stumbled across what works for me so quickly. It’s a perfect way for me to keep track of things without getting too complicated.
The only thing I’m missing is a way to remind myself of things that need to be woven into the chapters. For instance, I discovered a secret background of one of the minor characters in chapter 25 or so, which was well into the three quarters mark of the story being finished. This meant that I would need to go back and add a few hints to this person’s identity without actually giving it away so it didn’t seem out of the blue when they’re identity was discovered.
I left a note for myself at the point in the chapter when I found this out about the character, but of course that means I only saw it when I made it to that chapter and was well passed where the little hints needed to be mentioned.
I took a notebook sheet and wrote a list of things like that so I’ll be able to look at them when I write the second draft, but I feel there might be a better way of handling this. If any of you have ideas, please share!
If you are about to embark on your own revising project, I hope this helped you. And if you have any ideas that would help my revision process go more smoothly, I would love to hear them!
Until next time Epic Dreamers!