1. nastyjman

    nastyjman Senior Member

    Sep 27, 2010
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    What's your revision process?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by nastyjman, Feb 12, 2014.

    Hurray! You've finished your 1st draft. It stinks (of course it does unless you're God).

    I wanted to ask what your revision or rewriting process is. Do you save a copy of the first draft then revise and edit within that copy? Do you print out the 1st draft, make notations and the rewrite on a new document? Do you start fresh without referring to the original draft?

    Just wanted to see what writingforum's process is when making the second draft and other subsequent drafts.

    I'm experimenting on my revision process. Before, I would notate everything on a print out of my first draft. Once I've made my notes and strikeouts, I would duplicate the 1st draft in my laptop, rename it "2nd draft" and then work on that file, following the notes I made on the print out. It felt like a rigid process. Since the 1st draft is right on the screen, I'm tempted not to cut out some stuff since it would mean I have to rewrite everything down below, which means deleting them.

    On my current experiment, I just make my notes on the print out and create a new and blank document for the 2nd draft. What I noticed is that I'm rewriting the story radically. The story has the same spine, but the style is so distinct. The notes and marks I made on the print out felt like it was in vain, but I still use it as a guideline and a suggestion.

    Anyway, I'm not sure if this process I'm trying out will bear fruit. I know everyone has a different process, but I would like to know what your revision process is.
  2. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    i finish a first draft, set it aside for a day or longer, then go back and edit it... a book might take several edits before i consider it polished and ready to submit...

    at least one edit will be done on a print-out [for a book, 2 or more], as it's too easy to miss problems on the screen and sitting down in a comfy chair/sofa/bed with the pages and a red pen will give a fresh perspective...

    to save ink and paper, when i print an editing copy, i narrow the margins, switch to 1.5 line spacing, and use 'draft' quality for the printer...
  3. shadowwalker

    shadowwalker Contributor Contributor

    Jul 27, 2011
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    First misconception - the first draft does not have to stink and you don't have to be God for that. My revision process is to make it right the "first time" - ie, I revise as I go. There are no plot holes because what happens next depends on what happened before, for example. I use betas on a chapter by chapter basis, so I haven't written 40-odd chapters only to have my betas tell me I screwed up Chapter 3 and the rest of the story makes no sense because of it. I read each chapter out loud (usually several times) when done for editing purposes before it goes to the betas. One final read-through for polishing and done.
  4. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Jun 13, 2010
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    Queens, NY
    Oooh, good suggestion. I will definitely do that when I finish my 1st draft.

    I have, up until this project, been one to plow through until the first draft is finished, then let it sit, then go back and begin the long editing process. But with my current project, I have found myself changing course a couple of times, and it was necessary to do some fairly significant editing as I went (so I wouldn't lose track of what I wanted to change when I made the decision). Even now, I am making some mental notes about what I will have to change when I go into full edit mode (@shadowwalker would probably say, "Just edit as you go starting now and get it done", but that won't work, either, because I'll get too engrossed in making all the changes now that I'll lose focus on where the thing is going; besides, with only a couple of chapters to go, I might as well get to the end of the first draft).
  5. xanadu

    xanadu Contributor Contributor

    Oct 21, 2008
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    Cave of Ice
    When I write a first draft, I see it as a first attempt at a final draft. As in, I try to hit it as close to the mark as I can. I know it won't be exactly right, but I also know it won't be a pile of garbage hastily thrown together, either. But it will definitely need revising and editing, if only to sharpen the writing and trim the fat (I often overwrite, because I find it much easier to cut than to pad).

    Once I finish a first draft I set it aside and go into full revision mode on everything I have. I'll go through and do a reread of each of my other novels and do a new draft for each one, saving my newest for last. This includes converting to MS format if not already done, making any content changes I noted along the way, and most importantly tightening the prose and making everything read better. Then each draft will need time to sit before it's ready to be redrafted, so I write a new first draft. And the cycle continues.

    Someday one of them will reach final status. But as of now, I don't think any are at a level where I'd be willing to expend the resources to print them. Two are close, though. Maybe one more draft each.

    Of course, this process could easily lead to endless tinkering. Maybe it already has.
  6. Tesoro

    Tesoro Contributor Contributor

    Jan 3, 2011
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    A place with no future
    When I've finished the first draft I leave it for as long as I can, usually a couple of weeks. Then I print it, and read through to get a general idea about it. At most I make a little note in the margin but I do not start editing in this stage.

    When I've read it all I start fixing the big issues first, for example removing scenes or chapters, write additional ones, work on the characterization, the descriptions, milieus, etc.

    My first drafts are always very scarse, so I have to add a whole lot of description of all kinds of things that I leave out (not consciously) in the first draft phase. After that I read through again, several times, and keep revising after a couple of beta readers have given me some feedback.

    I go through my ms as many times as needed to be happy about it, checking language, clich├ęs, dialogues, removing adverbs and stuff. proofreading is the last step. Sometimes I let someone read it again when I think I'm completely finished.
  7. rasmanisar

    rasmanisar Active Member

    Jan 11, 2014
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    I agree that first drafts are in no way unavoidably bad. I personally have an editing process like a yoyo, I edit as I go, and then if a specific inference calls for more detail/a change of scene previously, I go back and change it, then edit that to completion before moving on with the writing. This has the result of giving me a very polished first draft, which I will then massively nit-pick and get others to do likewise, so I can make the final changes necessary for me to consider it 'finished' (as if any piece of work is ever truly finished.
  8. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Jul 11, 2010
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    Near Sedro Woolley, Washington
    I edit as I go, trying to make each sentence and paragraph as good as I can before I move on. Each day when I start a writing session, I read over the previous few days' work to reacquire the tone I'm using, and invariably I make more changes at that point. Then I move on with the new material.

    My first drafts read very well, but because I don't use an outline, they have a lot of wrong turns and dead ends. When I finish the first draft, I save it and copy it into a new document as a second draft, in which I remove all the wrong stuff and add new material to bridge over the gaps.

    I'm pretty wasteful of paper and toner. I print out the chapter I'm working on every day and go over it with red pen as part of the process. I usually find places I merely skimmed over that need more depth, so I flip the page over and write new paragraphs on the back, which I then insert next time I'm at the computer. Sometimes I use several different colors of pen - red to delete, green to suggest alternative sentences or paragraphs, black for new material on the backs of the pages, etc. My first drafts sometimes wind up looking like a child's art project. :)

    That's how I traditionally did it. I'm using Scrivener now, and it permits me to have many different drafts of each scene all together in the same project file. I can select which one I want in the final "compiled" version when I print it out. This is changing my approach a little, but I'm still experimenting with the software to find the best way for me to revise with it.

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