Revising Is More Than Polishing

Kitty Bucholtz — 

Part of the process of finishing is going back and revising. That means not only moving some sentences around, checking eye and hair color of every character all the way through, and other polishing type touches, but it also means throwing out whole chapters, moving big chunks from one place to another, and then rewriting scenes to make the story really pop in a way that it did only in your head before.

Getting through the second draft, or first revision, or what I often still call my first draft, can be harrowing depending on how smoothly the story came out the first time. Reading more articles on writing during this phase can often go a long way toward helping you plan your revision.

For instance, I often write out the major plot points and fill in the blanks for the Hero’s Journey to see if there are any holes or if the order of events should change. There are different examples of the Hero’s Journey here and here and lots of other places on the web. Here is an example of a beat sheet from StoryFix.com, which has a similar function.

Sometimes I find articles on things I already “know” to be good reminders as I’m going through the process of editing and revising. Checklists like this one can be helpful. This Writer’s Digest article is on creating better villains. Here’s one on rescuing your story from plot pitfalls. While you can spend too much time surfing the Net and reading books and articles, I find that the ones that catch my eye often do so because subconsciously I’ve picked up on a problem with my villain or the plot and as I read the article, I have some little ah-ha moments. Then I know what I need to go back and change in revisions.

An article on generating ideas or the pros and cons of writing this or that (see this article on Donald Maass versus Natalie Goldberg on “write what you know”) will sometimes make me think of why a character is the way they are, which will help me better refine their goals, motivation and conflict. Or such an article could underscore my belief in the theme of my book, or make me question whether I really said what I was trying to say.

This article on mental health and others on physical health are necessary reminders that the things I often allow myself to think of as “extra” and therefore the first to be pushed out of a busy schedule are some of the most important things for long-term success. I need these reminders about long-term success so I don’t work for the short-term goal and undermine myself for later.

Other days I need to focus exclusively on the publishing house/imprint I’m targeting. This article lists what a Harlequin editor (I’m targeting the Harlequin American Romance line with one of my books) is looking for in submissions. Very important!

Here is an article on pitching from Writer’s Digest and another one from the edittorrent blog. Part of finishing is pitching, and I’ll be pitching to a couple editors at the Romance Writers of Australia conference I’m going to this week. I’m printing these out to remind me of what I want to say and how I want to say it – meaning I want to stay relaxed and be myself!

I get a fair number of emailed newsletters from various writing sites. Most are skimmed and deleted. A few are kept for future reference. Some of the articles get printed or filed. I don’t consider this procrastinating unless I’m reading every single one word for word even if it doesn’t appeal to a need. It’s more like extra fuel to kick up the heat during the revision process.

Kitty Bucholtz

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Kitty Bucholtz is the author of the superhero urban fantasy novel UNEXPECTED SUPERHERO and the free short story prologue "Superhero in Disguise," as well as the romantic comedy LITTLE MISS LOVESICK. Her books are available in print and ebook form at most major retailers.

7 responses to Revising Is More Than Polishing

  1. Good article, Kitty. Lots of useful information. For the visual among us using Storyfix’ beat sheet, there’s a poster a writer developed to illustrate Larry Brook’s story architecture. http://storyfix.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/StoryStructure_poster2.pdf I just downloaded it and haven’t studied it, but it looks like a great visual help.

  2. Kay Bigelow at

    I much appreciate you pulling this information together. Thanks.

  3. Kitty Bucholtz at

    Thanks for the additional link, Steph! Glad you’re finding this useful, Kay! :)

  4. So many helpful links…thanks!

  5. Let’s hear it for storyfix! Stephanie, that’s a cool graphic.

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