This is the first time I’ve done revision. On my first book.
Translation: I’ve never done this before.
(Embarrassing admission: I’m afraid of the magnitude of changes I have to make, so I’ve been procrastinating.)
When I’m faced with something I’m not sure how to tackle, or if the “something” is huge and intimidating, I procrastinate. For instance, I’ve spent a lot of time lately working on my timeline (necessary, but not required…I have plenty of scenes that I need to write that are not really timeline-dependent), I’m creating a “bible” of notes, observations, characters, settings, facts, etc. about Napoleon and the Regency to support my story (could definitely do this later), I’ve been jotting notes for the next book (um, hello? Finish the first one!), and of course I’ve been doing the usual household stuff like laundry, paying bills, cleaning and de-cluttering the storage closet, organizing receipts for taxes, and scrubbing the grout in the kitchen with a small toothbrush.
In my head, I know exactly what I have to do to get this book whipped into shape. I even have a list, but the list is looooooong (thus intimidating), and my self-imposed deadline is months away. My mind tells me I have plenty of time to get this book done! (Not.)
I have to stop.
When I worked as a software designer, I managed a number of requirements for a given software release. For each requirement, I had to write the design, review it with product management, make revisions, review with development, revise again, and then publish. Once the code was done, I had to test, revise the design based on actual implementation, then assist with the user guide/training material so it reflected functionality. In other words, there was a set process I had to follow and everything had a due date. Four days to write the design, two days to review, one day to rewrite, a week to code, etc. I plotted everything out in a Gantt chart, complete with dependencies and a hard-and-fast end date for the entire release.
I have to take this same approach with my revisions.
I need to make a detailed list and organize it by like things, then put a time lock on everything. For example, my subplot is lackluster and missing details. I need to:
- Flesh out the subplot, including the timing of events, listing the major events that need to happen
- Determine any missing scenes
- Sketch out the missing scenes at a high level (a “Cliff notes” version)
- Write the scenes
- Determine what other scenes need to change
- Make those changes (and complete all of this in, say, two weeks)
This seems so easy…but why am I having such a tough time doing this? Perhaps its because each time I delve into my story to look at what needs to change, I find more things that need fixing. Things that go on my list, which gets ever-longer. To tell you the truth, it’s a bit demoralizing. But I need to push that from my mind. I’ve got to pull up my big-girl pants, get organized, and make deadlines and keep them, or I’ll never finish this book.
Do you have strategies for tackling revisions? What works for you? I’m completely open to suggestions, so please share.