June 1, 2015

Creating a Revision System That Works For You

I traded in my red pen in for a pack of colored pencils and it's helped me edit and revise more than I could imagine. Every writer knows that there are tons of conflicting advice for us offered on the internet and even in print books. Rather than adding to it all, I just wanted to take a moment to encourage you to chart your own path and figure out what works for you.

Whether you outline faithfully or not all, there's no reason you need to make the revision and editing process more difficult than it already is. My advice is to find a method that works for you and be consistent with it. If you can't find a revision and editing method that works for you, consider creating your own or adapting my system to fit your own needs.

Personally, I avoid highlighting. I find it to be too abrasive - an overwhelming assault on  my senses during revisions. Instead I use a color coded system for notes and any other distinctions I need to make, both as I go and during any minor revisions before the actual 2nd draft though some of it stays until the very end.

My system is this ...
  • Royal Blue : Reduce, reuse, recycle. If there are word choices or if I know a passage is a good candidate for being either cut or drastically reduced. For me, most of these passages can be found towards the beginning particularly with things like setting a scene or discussing weather or an intricate backstory that doesn't necessarily need to be shared with the reader in the next draft. 
  • Red : Red is for personal notes. (Expand this scene.) I also use red with coding brackets> in order to frame a passage which I am commenting on. For instance, with something like "Rewrite this paragraph" I might frame the paragraph with brackets for more clarity. 
  • Gray : Outline. Every chapter (and most scenes) begin with an outline. If I haven't finished a scene or the chapter yet, that is, unless I am confident that I have not deviated from achieving the goal of the chapter, I will not remove the outline. At the same time, I don't want it to run straight into the actual text. If this isn't clear, it's like this, I start with an outline and flesh it out into what might be 800 word scenes (which is really not enough). I have to mark it so I'll know to come back and add some prose, watch the verb tenses or POV, etc. Really, I use this color the least since I usually plow right through the scene and remove the outline. It's still helpful to have it available in my system though so I won't be cutting it anytime soon.
  • Green : Reword. If I have to read a sentence more than once to figure out what I was trying to say, it probably needs to be rewritten. If I can't understand my own writing there's no way anyone else will either. This is helpful for when I want to push through a scene and can pick up on what is wrong before I actually know how to fix it. I try to read through a whole scene before making drastic changes and this helps me spot the bits that aren't working for me.  
  • Orange: Placeholder. When I am writing a first draft I usually don't stop to name all of the streets and locations (sometimes even minor characters go unnamed as well). In that case I will usually mark my placeholder as orange so that in the next draft it'll stand out and I'll be sure to change them as I go (and check for consistency of course)!    
Everyone writer has to find a system that works for them. Since I am a fan of the 50 Page Edit System, this has seemed to work well for me (so far). Right now I am revising a manuscript that I wrote before I developed with this system and I am finding that it would have been so much easier had used this in the first draft.

When my text is all the same color (black on a white background) it can be difficult for me to start hacking and slashing at the text. It might sound silly but allowing myself to document my (original) perception of the text during the first (few) rounds of revisions and edits allows me to either agree or disagree with my earlier thoughts. For instance, while rereading, I skip straight over the blue portions and if it works without it (as I previously though it might) then I'll go ahead and eliminate the passage without further ado. I find that it makes "killing my darlings" that much easier. It allows me to remove some of my personal attachment to the work itself and kind of pretend that I'm editing someone else's work rather than my own (which we all know is way easier).  

I have yet to experiment with writing on my typewriter so I'm not sure how that will work. I guess I should buy a new dual colored ribbon and give it a go.

How do you go about editing and revising your texts? 

1 comment:

  1. I love the colored pencil suggestion. Very organized! I think I'm going to borrow it. :)


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