I’ll never forget the first time I finished writing Birthday Ranch. I thought I was finished, fool that I was.
With no plan for next steps, I descended into a confusing—but ultimately enlightening—rabbit hole of advice and mistakes.
Since then, I’ve cobbled together a system that seems to be working for me as I revise Counterblow Clemency, my futuristic YA caper. I hope that you find all or some of it useful on your own revision odyssey.
Remember, the act of creating is the real journey, and the finished product is the cold beverage waiting for you at the end (or hot bev, depending on your setting).
1. Embrace Chunks of 6,000
Break your manuscript (ms) into chunks by word count—not by chapters or beats or scenes. By removing your preconceived ideas about where the story breaks, you can get a fresh perspective on its structure. This is similar to reading sentences backward or listening to them being dictated to catch typos.
I have found 6,000 words at a time both manageable and enough material to analyze the story.
2. Find Trusted Resources
What is ’Show, Don’t Tell?’ What is it? Its meaning is as elusive as defining the term, per se.
Discovering Understanding Show, Don't Tell: And Really Getting It by Janice Hardy has unlocked a new confidence inside of me as a writer. I hope it, or another trusted resource, does the same for you.
For me, the book’s most useful tools are its lists (and explanations of) red flag words. For example, ’to [verb].’
Once I grasped why each word or phrase led to telling, instead of showing, I began doing searches for each one, and fixing the ample telling in my writing into showing. With 6,000 words to examine, this is doable—as is searching for passive voice.
3. Get Technical
In order to tighten my writing, I zoom out the document on my screen and count the number of pages between beats. I look for ways to even them out.
I read the ms any number of ways, and if anything at all catches me up, is the slightest bump in my story immersion, I quickly highlight it and keep going. It is important for me to chug along those tracks from the first word to the 6,000th, or so.
Read all the way through and then go back to any highlighted words or phrases, smoothing them out, one at a time.
4. Hire a beta reader. They don’t have to be expensive, but they must be a stranger to you in order to receive honest feedback on the experience of reading your ms (they are not editors). I found mine on Twitter. Message me and I’ll share her contact info.
5. If you have a writing group, have them read pages. Choose wisely and give them two or three at a time, because they are super busy, too. If you don’t have a writing group, I know finding one is easier said than done. It took me years. Don’t give up.
Believe me, you need these people’s support, and they need yours. Be creative in finding candidates, and selective in whom you choose. People have varying reasons for joining a writing group, so make sure yours align.
The revision process is long, often boring, and filled with the pitfalls of insecurity and uncertainty. But, when you remember to enjoy it as part of the creation process, it can become a fascinating puzzle that only you can solve, reminding you that you are special.