Revising Your Story (Step 1 of 2)

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REVISING YOUR STORY

Since I'm currently going through this right now with one of my books, I thought I'd share with you some tips on revising your book! There's a lot that goes in to this, so there may be quite a few points to cover.

1 - Wait until you're finished.
     
-This is something I had to learn the hard way. Stop rewriting as you write! Stop looking back at your previous chapters and fixing them. You'll slow down the process and get caught up in rewriting before you've even finished the first draft.
This is important in order to get the book finished. Write a chapter, then put it away until you're finished. Only look back if you need a brief reminder of where you were in the story, but your outline should keep you up to date.       
(Before I continue, I want to acknowledge that there are exceptions. Maybe some people work better if they revise as they write. However, this is uncommon, so I would suggest trying out the method I'm laying out and seeing if it works for you.)

2 - Take notes as you write the first draft.
Now, while you're writing, you may think of things that you wrote in the last chapter that are suddenly now pointless, but you don't have to fix them now. It's good to open a new word document or get out a blank notebook, and jot down everything you think of that may need to be revised. That way, when the revision process is underway, you'll have a nice to-do list of things to get done.
Be as specific as you can be, with page numbers or chapters to make it easier on yourself in the future! Don't expect yourself to remember.

3 - After finishing, put it away.
Stop thinking about it. Stop worrying. Start a new project, and give the other one at least a month of rest. However long you need to separate yourself from a story.

4 - Approach it without familiarity.
The next step is about viewing your writing critically. Not critiquing your writing style, or you as a person, or being negative about yourself, but keeping a sharp eye out for errors just like you would if you were critiquing another person's book. Take more notes, plan out changes in your mind, etc. View it objectively.
Also, it's important to note that by 'errors,' I don't mean grammar or sentence order issues. I mean plot holes, characterization issues, consistency problems, etc. I'm talking about the bigger picure stuff. The editing will come later.

5 - Make a copy of the document.
Really important! You don't want to lose your first draft. Not only for sentimental reasons, but also as a fall-back document if you really screw things up in the revision. If you accidentally delete an important scene, you have another copy to pull it from.

6 - Show no mercy.
Cut what needs to be cut. Don't fall in love with any of it yet, because it may have to be deleted. Your character may be witty and sly, but if they don't add to the story, you may need to get rid of them or merge them with another character. And that super cool line that you know will be famous? Well if it doesn't fit with the dialogue and seems way too mature, cut it. Slice up your story, and cut off all the unnecessary parts.

7 - Don't confuse revising with proofreading.
People tend to lump revising a manuscript in with proofreading and call it “editing”. Understanding that these can be two separate processes could be useful in deciding when and how to edit your work. You’re probably doing one or the other, and since the definitions for revising and proofreading are different, you might benefit from approaching them in different ways.

-Revising a manuscript means making changes to the structure of the story, to its guts.
-We’re talking cutting and pasting whole blocks of text, tweaking characters, adding scenes and taking others out. Revising a story is all about taking the raw ingredients of the rough draft and actually crafting something palatable from them. This “rough draft” can be the length of a sentence, a scene, an entire novel. However, revising tends to happen after whatever a writer is working on is complete.

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