Another Revision

Kitty Bucholtz — 

We generally spend January talking about revision at Routines for Writers. After all the holidays are over, it seems like a good time to take another look at what you wrote during National Novel Writing Month and figure out what to do next. But I’m starting the next stage of revisions on my superhero novel this week. I’ve got twelve weeks until school starts again so I’ve got to buckle down and get this finished. I thought today I’d share some of the floating bits that have been in my head this week while working.

First, I have three other revisions on this book. (It’s a long story, don’t ask.) I know the book I’m going to write revolves around the biological father kidnapping his grandson so he can genetically alter him. So children and things relating to children will be part of the plot, the subplots, and symbols. In the last three revisions, I have several scenes in each book that I think are key to understanding the main character. I got out all three copies and wrote down on a sheet of paper the scenes I wanted to keep. I had to figure out how to distinguish them besides “original book one” or “romance book one” or “murder book one.” (All of them are variations on book one in what I hope to be a series, so book one needs to be right.) Yesterday when I was downloading Scrivener 2.0 (YAY!!) I figured it out.  A copy of my old versions are now Hero 1.1, Hero 1.2, Hero 1.3 and the newest version that I’m working on and will send to agents is Hero 1.4. These are all now in the Hero 1.4 folder.

Second, though I mostly know what’s happening with each character, some of the order of events is fuzzy to me. And not everything will appear on the page, so what happens off the page and on the page isn’t always clear. Remember last year I moved and had all those big sheets of packing paper (like butcher paper)? I got out a few of those and some markers. On the first sheet I drew a line down the middle, and put tick marks at the quarter mark, the half mark, the three-quarters mark and the end. Then I wrote down all the things that would happen in approximately the order I expected them, putting the major turning points at those tick marks.Then I got out another sheet of paper, drew a line down the middle, and starting at the left/top (depending on how you position the paper), I wrote down every single event that would happen to the protagonist in order. I did that again for the antagonist. I’ll do it a few more times for the other major and some secondary characters.

This way I know that I haven’t forgotten anything from A to Z for the major characters. All the things that need to happen to get us to the end are written down. Not all of it will appear on the page. And I don’t know exactly where I’ll break from one character to another. But at least nothing is missing. And I found three areas that ring a little false, areas where I want the plot to go a certain direction but when I wrote it down I wondered if the character would really do that. This might be the most useful way I’ve looked at revisions yet.

Today’s task is to sit down with all of those sheets and integrate them into a new plot outline. Then I’ll create a prototype document that is the cut and paste of all the scenes I’ve already written from the three prior versions that follow this newly revised plot. What I am trying to convince myself to do after that will be more difficult. Following the advice of Donald Maass and Jack Hodgins, I’m going to literally re-type the entire manuscript at that point. The idea is that your creative side will think of slightly better ways to say what it already said. I’ve read that some people who used to write their books on a typewriter believe that they were slightly more creative each time they had to physically retype the chapters. I’ll try to remember to get back to you on this after I’ve done it. If I have the courage to follow through! Who knows? Maybe retyping will become my next best writing routine!

That’s what I’ve been doing and will be doing this week. But I’ve also found some interesting bits on the Internet to share with you. I’ll just make a little list of them here. I hope you find some of it useful.  :)

Writer’s Digest Prompt – My friend Kathleen sent this to our writer’s group. It’s such a great picture to get ideas from, some of us are entering our opening sentence in their online contest.

Seventh Sanctum – My friend Betsy told me about this. She uses it with her kids when she’s teaching, and also with her own writing. WRITER BEWARE! This site can be addictive for “research”. There are a lot of different kinds of generators here – names, powers, magic, technology, settings, etc.

4 Post-Its to Stick Up Over Your Writing Desk – I think this link came from my RWA friend Laura. When I read this editor saying it’s the conflict between the two biggest needs that brings about the climax in your book, I ran to my big sheets of paper and wrote down the climax in slightly different words. Now I have an emotional issue as well as an action scene. Even though I knew it in my head, I hadn’t actually put it on paper.

Making a Writing Bible – Ever since my screenwriting training, I’ve been a big fan of story bibles. But I haven’t been able to figure out how to make one that is easy to update as well as making things easy to find. I’ve usually ended up with a Word file that is a hundred pages of notes with no easy way to find the one tiny detail I can’t remember – her middle name, her eye color, that nickname from the second grade that I know I mentioned before. This article is great if you’re using Word, Pages, OpenOffice or another major word processing software. But let me point out that my favorite program, Scrivener, apparently can do this, too. I looked on the upgrade notes yesterday. Either it always could or it can now. Either way I need to take the time to do this so I don’t waste more time later looking for all those little factoids I made up.

Nathan Bransford – His blog is still as fabulous as Nathan the Author as it was as Nathan the Agent. I particularly liked this article Five Writing Tips from Reading J.K. Rowling’s HARRY POTTER. The last part is my favorite – have fun with your world.

It’s not just a Point of View – This article by RWA friend Shannon Donnelly posted on the RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapter’s blog is one of the best I’ve read. In addition to explaining point of view and why you need to know how to control it, Shannon gives us a great exercise we can use to keep our scenes sharp and emotional. I’m going to start using it this week!

Going the Distance: Goal Setting and Time Management for the Writer – I’ll be teaching this 4-week class in January. With three lectures a week, the goal of the class is for everyone to have a plan for the year and know how and when to revise it as the year goes on. Keep watching for updates – I’m trying to work out a free seat in the class for a lucky RFW reader!

Note: Now that I don’t have Master Degree news to share down here for a few months, I thought I’d share my summer reading with you. This week I read Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins in four days. Really good! I’ve had to leave Catching Fire, book two, next to my bed during the day because if I start to read it during lunch, I’m pretty sure I won’t be writing again for the rest of the day!  Interesting note for writers: on the About the Author page at the end of the book, it says, “In HUNGER GAMES, she continues to explore the effects of war and violence on those coming of age.” Do you have variations on a theme you usually write about?

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.

4 responses to Another Revision

  1. Laura Drake at

    Kitty, great article, thanks for the tips! Especially the one on revising by tearing the story apart, and starting only with the scenes you know you want to keep. I have to go back to my first novel and revise at some point, and it terrified me – didn’t know where to start, and was afraid I’d end up just rewriting sentences when it needs a major overhaul. I feel more confident about it now, thanks to you! I may try the retyping tip too – I think it will help tap into a different part of the brain (what’s left of it, anyway.)

  2. Zoiks! You’ve given me way too many new websites to go visit this morning. I’ll have to come back later when I’ve got more time :) Good stuff.

  3. Kitty, you fiend! I could get buried in Seventh Sanctum and never come out. LOL My playing at that site has generated a BUNCH of ideas and set a few old ones to simmering, too. Thanks!

  4. Beth Yarnall at

    I loved the Hunger Games trilogy! Suzanne Collins is an amazing writer. Thanks for all the tips and time wasting… I mean websites. :-)