The Process Wonk

(Cross posted from First Offenders)

For the most part I enjoy revisions, especially the beginning stages where I’m taking the lump of promise that is my rough draft and shaping it and polishing it. Of course it gets real tedious after the seventh or eight draft and I still can’t figure out how to fix my ending, but that hasn’t happened yet with this one and I don’t think it will. For this book I had my depression and fits of rage at the very beginning. I was so sick of all of the revising I’ve been doing over the years without success and I didn’t see any end to it in the near future so I panicked. But then I got over it, wrote a bit of something else and came back and realized I have something I think is pretty good. And now I’m making it better.

Here’s how I’m doing it.

After I let the rough draft cool for a couple of months, I went back and started reading it from the beginning. I had a separate file open where I would note things that didn’t make sense, or things that I thought were stupid, ideas for expansion, and such. After that read through, I looked at my notes and saw three major things I need to work on. So what I did is made an outline of every chapter from the first draft and then cut out the chapters I thought were useless or took the story in a direction I didn’t like. And then I started a new outline for the next draft.

Here I used an old screenwriting trick to anchor my story with three major plot points and a few smaller plot pinches. This was nice because I realized I had all of the strong anchor points I needed already, they were just mostly in the wrong places. Some big scenes came too late and some came too early without enough buildup. So for a couple of days I built the new outline around those anchor scenes and added a few new scenes and cut a few more until I ended up with an outline that has two more chapters than the original. The ending is still the same, but all of the other major plot twists happen at different times than in the first draft.

Now I’m at the point where I’m taking all of those scenes from the first draft and putting them into the correct order in the new draft. I do this a few chapters at a time and then I’ll go back and read the chapters and polish them and make sure they fit with everything that came before hand. When I’m done with this draft, I’ll let it sit for a little bit and then do another read through to see if everything still makes sense. Then I’ll send it out to my readers and see what they have to say.

I’m going to Love is Murder at the beginning of February and would like to have this current draft done by then so I can talk it up to the editors and agents I meet there.

How does this compare to your revision process? And for the readers out there, do your prefer a perfectly polished final product, or do you like the raw energy you get from something closer to a first draft?