The second month of revisions is one of those times I start to loathe a manuscript. The good news is, things are moving fast. I don’t think there will be a third month before this draft is ready for test readers.
The highlight so far: My goal for this book was to market it at under 100,000 words. When I finished the first rough draft, it was 120,000+ words, and I was left to figure out how to cut nearly a fifth of the narrative. By the time I finished my read-through, I realized I’d duplicated a few chapters and passages by virtue of my not-so-thorough understanding of Scrivener. Removing those passages knocked the overall length down to around 96,000. The only word for that: Huzzah.
Further revisions have me down to nearly 90,000 words, and I’m not quite halfway through yet. This is especially good because I think it will take 10-15 thousand words to fill in gaps I’m finding as I go. I expect the final first draft (which I share with test readers) to clock in around 96,000 words, give or take 3,000.
The bad part is, I was hoping to have this revision completed by the end of 2011. I even thought about wrapping a first draft as a gift for some of my test readers (the ones who read my work because they enjoy it, rather than as a favor to me). At the pace I’m moving, though, it looks like I’ll be wrapping up my first revision sometime in January. Not that I’m complaining.
My process, in a nutshell: I don’t like to start revisions until I’ve finished a first draft, and try (somewhat successfully) to avoid even looking back at earlier chapters while I’m writing. Yes, this means there’s some inconsistency with plot, location, names, and such. I’m okay with that – the important thing is forward momentum.
Once I’ve finished that first rough draft, I print it and read it through. Because of my first draft approach, there will be some gaps, some false starts, and some plot points that come in three different places, as I change my mind about where certain information should come to light. This is normal – but it must be cleaned up before the book goes to test readers, or their only feedback will be confusion. I mark all initial changes on paper as I read. Most are detailed corrections, but in places it’s just a paragraph or two circled and the word “revise.”
The next stage, which is where I find myself now, is transcribing those handwritten changes into the electronic manuscript. This stage is frustratingly slow, and I may in the future try to do my initial read-through electronically, but I just don’t feel natural reading on a computer screen, and my Kindle doesn’t lend itself to prolific markup.
Once I have a first clean draft, with a relatively linear plot and consistent names and places, I go to test readers. Once I get their comments, revisions can go in several directions – but of course it takes some time for them to read. While I’m waiting, I’ll start a new project. At of today, that’s what I’m looking forward to most.