Revising by Hand

unnamedFor the last several weeks I’ve been revising the fourth draft of my manuscript by hand. It’s a method I’m familiar with in theory, but one I’ve never done this extensively.

After obsessively reading through author blogs and advice I realized I needed to try something new. I’d already done roughly two and a half rounds of revision and still felt I wasn’t diving deep enough.

So, I read through Susan Dennard’s revision process and decided to print out the entire manuscript for the second time (the first being the rough draft). A few things came from this, 1) I was reminded how immensely proud I am of myself for writing that many words, even if they’re bad ones. And 2) my usual routine of becoming distracted by the internet was taken out of play.

I worked by hand with my laptop far away and my phone on do not disturb. Then in the last week I typed in all those changes. My third draft word count was close to 75,000 and by the end of deleting, adding and more deleting, the finished fourth draft came out to barely 66,000. That’s a lot shorter than what I want it to be, but those are 66k words that (hopefully) all add something to the story.

It was easier to cut the fluff and realize what wasn’t working when I couldn’t see the word count shrinking. Doing it by hand made it a million times easier to cut through those words without trying to maintain a specific word count. With this in mind, I hid the word count feature as I typed in the changes.

Now I’ve got the first 12 chapters in someone else’s hands for the first time. I only handed off the first 12 instead of all 38 because of another Susan Dennard tip. Why give someone more of the same problems? When I have feedback from the first 12, I’ll use it to adjust the next 13, and so on, before getting feedback on it. This’ll make sure each part is tighter than the last, ideally forcing the person reading it to go deeper.

I’ll be spending the time now that it’s out of my hands focused on doing some general brainstorming and outlining for what I want to happen in the rest of the series. I won’t be writing any sequels for a long time, (more writerly advice, this time an overlap from both Susan Dennard and Ava Jae). But when I make the next round of revisions, I want to be working not just with feedback from my reader but also a better understanding of the story’s long term goals.

Overall, I’m glad I revised by hand, and I feel so much more connected to my story, especially since over the last few drafts it’s drastically changed from what I initially planned and wrote almost a year ago. I suggest, whether it’s the first or thousandth round of revisions, that you try hand revising at least once for your manuscript. You’d be surprised the things you notice.

For comparison, here’s the visual of tracked changes after I typed in all the revisions I’d marked by hand. It’s a lot of red, and to be honest, it’s pretty fun to see.

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NanoWrimo Week 1!

            fifi-and-outline    NanoWrimo has been off to a disappointing start. It only took me two days to realize I’d started my story in the wrong spot and the first four chapters I was working on were going to have to be cut as soon as revisions start. However, in the spirit of fast drafting and not revising as I go, I decided to keep writing those chapters even if I know they won’t be there later. They provide valuable background information for me as the writer, and allow me to get used to my characters before the action really starts.

I’ve also already begun reworking my outline but I consider that a natural progression of my writing process. There are parts of any story that don’t become clear until I begin writing, and updating my outline and reworking plot points is better to do now than following the outline and having to rewrite essentially the entire draft later.

I’m a little behind on my word count goals, I’m supposed to be to 10,000 at the end of today (day 6). I’ve just finished two word sprints, (using the MyWriteClub sprint feature), and I’ve caught up from yesterday. It’s only 10:30 in the morning so I’m confident I’ll get above and beyond where I need to be before the day is over. I have some homework to do for school and some cleaning to do in my apartment today too, so I have to keep reminding myself to stay productive.

In other news, being in the midst of a new first draft has led to a breakthrough in the revisions of a different story that I’d all but given up on. I’d thought I was sick of it and that the revisions I’d made while working on the second draft had essentially put me in a corner. I’ve been getting sudden inspiration though, with ideas for new scenes coming to me, and a newfound motivation to at least finish the second draft, even if that novel is never seen by anyone but me. I think it’ll be good for me to go through the entire revision process, if for nothing more than learning to push through it.

While that inspiration is a good thing, I can’t work on it now. Part of fast drafting is ignoring distractions, so I’ve been writing down any ideas that come to me for that revision while also keeping a separate document for revision ideas related to the first draft I’m doing for NanoWrimo. I’m going to look at the revisions for my other project when November is over, but for now its first draft time. And with that being said, it’s time to get back to writing!

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