How I Revise and Edit Later Drafts
And how I polish up my prose
Your series on revisions totally changed my process for the better all those years ago when you first published it. I’d love to know more details about how you tackle later revisions (like third+ draft). Is the process the same as your revisions post still, or does it change as you reach later drafts? Do you have any advice for the last few rounds of revisions and making a manuscript really shine?
@AJ Eversley asked:
How do you tackle repetitive words and phrases? This is my Achilles heel, I either can't see the repetition OR when I do a "find and replace" search I end up replacing one repetitive word for another LOL. I trust my CP and agent to spot things, but any suggestions to see them myself easier?
Thank you both for your questions, and because they feed into each other, I wanted to tackle them simultaneously !
Let’s start with Maisie’s question about how I approach later revisions. For those of you who don’t know my general process for revising, you can see a rough guide here. I’ll be honest that I have been revising for so long now and I’ve edited so many books I don’t actually need to follow all the steps listed in that post.
Like, I rarely read the whole book before I revise, and I don’t use scene notecards. I simply don’t need to because the process is so internalized and automatic at this point. (I talk about that more here!)
I do still make an organized Plan of Attack during my first round of revisions, though.
Since Round 1 is when I’m making the most and largest changes—either ones I have found or ones my editor has sent me—then I try to get organized and stay organized.
Once I’m at a third draft though, I’m usually only dealing with scene-by-scene issues. Like, I’m bringing out a character’s emotions more for slowing down the pacing or plant foreshadowing more clearly, etc.
During those third (or later) drafts, I prefer to keep a running list of what I want to change. I use an app called Simplenote1, and I’ll literally just have a note titled Luminaries revisions or Witchshadow revisions. Then as ideas and solutions to problems come to me, I’ll add them to the growing list.
But wait, Sooz, how do you even know what the issues are so you can make a running list of their solutions?
Typically, while I’m working through my second draft and checking off the boxes of my Plan of Attack, I’ll create and add to my running list of issues. So for example, let’s say I have reached Chapter 10 in my first round of revisions. I’m changing it according to my Plan of Attack, but I realize in the moment that an emotional beat I’m adding to Chapter 10 would land better if I firs add a hint of it back in Chapter 4…
So I’ll add that to my list in Simplenote.
Then, when I actually finish my second draft and have hopefully addressed everything from the Plan of Attack, I already have a new list of what I want to fix/tweak in my third draft. Once I’ve made those changes, I then send the book to outside readers.
And of course, those readers will send me their notes, off of which I’ll create a new running list of issues in Simplenote.2
So now let’s say you’re at your third or fourth draft…or eleventh, if you’re like me, and it’s time to really make the manuscript shine. Now what do you do to take the book to the next level?