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Revision, revision, revision

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I am curious to know how long it takes people to undertake a revision of a MS (i.e novel) and what methods/approach people use.


It is partly prompted by the fact that I am nearing the end (finally) of a three week revision stint on Ragtag Souls. It been through the mill several times but this is definately the longest it has taken. Some of it due to work and some because of the approach and depth of the revision. I sincerely hope by the end it will be the last major revision I have to do. (fingers and toes crossed.)



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For the first book? When I say "revision," I include going back over the last draft for minor stuff, finding out there is major stuff, so changing it enough to make a new copy of it and then going through it again for minor stuff. That's one draft. Somewhere in all that, I had to get rid of an info dump by rewriting 3/5ths of the ms again. All told? Seven revisions in six years. 


This second book is taking longer.


Soooo, want me to tell you how I did it? (Because I'm the last person anyone wants to learn that kind of thing from. 🥴)


BTW, three weeks? I want to be you when I grow up. 😲

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I think my Joseph story has been through 4 or 5 rounds of edits by this point. It will go through at least one more with the publisher this autumn/winter.


The biggest thing for me has been time away from the manuscript. When I did a final revision before I sent it off (this past summer), it had been half a year since I'd looked over it in any critical manner. There were TONS of things, particularly wording and some character thought process stuff, that I hadn't been able to see before, because I was so "in it" that I had lost some perspective. 

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I read and revise until I'm not making a bunch of changes in the chapters as a whole and when I can't stand reading it anymore.


Then it's off to an editor.


Generally speaking, if I'm tired of looking at the manuscript, it means that I'm not finding enough in there to change that keeps me engaged.



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I think it depends on the writer. For me, it often took several months before I felt satisfied with the revision. It is a tough job but in my opinion, goes better when you are not in a hurry. When hurried, the process becomes tedious and tiring. I wish you the very best on your revision. I like what Jeff Potts said, "if I'm tired of looking at the manuscript....." That can be a good indication that it is time to move on.


Blessings on your manuscript.

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The length of the revision process depends upon the experience of the writer. My early works took over a year of revision. More recently they require three to six months, depending on length.


I don't do all-in-one revision passes. Each pass I focus on a different aspect. These are not in order:


  - Transitions: Book Start & End, Chapter Start and End

  - Dialogue

  - Description

  - Setting.  Sometimes moving a scene to a different setting makes it more interesting, ties in with theme beter, etc.

  - Suspense / Pacing / Balance

  - Theme / Foreshadowing

  - Conciseness

  - Chaptering (split long chapters)

  - Weaving in new characters, subplots and twists if the plot is too simple

  - Plug Plot holes, fix timeline (it is bad to have a character appear in a scene after they have already died!)

  - Scenes to cut. If it is dull, repetitive or doesn't accomplish much, reduce it to a sequel (summarization when the protagonist plans what to do next) or talk about it in dialogue in a later scene.

  - Genre review - Have I addressed all the expectations of readers of the genre? 


Of course, I fix spelling and grammar mistakes whenever I find them, in any pass.


Balance is a tricky one. Once I have a full MS, I create an outline for it, a synopsis, and associate each section with a different plot point according to the 3-Act, 4-Act or other structure I am using. (If you use story writing software, you already have this!) Early on, this would produce revelations. I once found that I was missing a key plot point, or it was so short that it didn't pack the punch it should have. Another time, I found that one section was way too long compared to its part in the story. Make sure you have a complete story!!!


The genre review helped me catch one glaring omission. I had a prison drama as a part of one novel. I had no "exit interview" scene where the prisoner and the warden face off in a confrontation after the prisoner gets parole and the warden isn't happy and makes threats. Also, when editing a friend's romance, the "first kiss" scene was too short. I recommended that she expand it.

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I'm on my 12th draft. As I went back and did a page one rewrite for the 11th draft, I sent all my chapters through my editing group, one per week, and am now going back and making the edits suggested there. I can see the end of the tunnel.

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