I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

When revising your manuscript seems too daunting (Part 2)

In yesterday's post I spoke about Step 1 of my Revision Plan of Action - printing out my manuscript and revising/editing on paper rather than on the computer screen. This gives you a completely different perspective on your manuscript and can help to break the dreaded revision-block. I loved reading everyone's comments, and it was really interesting to see the different revision methods that people use (revising all on the computer, revising all on paper, or combining the two).

Today I want to talk about another way to make your revisions seem less daunting: breaking your manuscript into sections. This works well for both computer revisions and paper revisions.


Step 2 - break your manuscript into sections

I suspect that part of the cause of my revision-block was the 300 page manuscript in front of me. My thinking went something like this: How on earth am I ever going to get my revisions finished, OMG there's 300 pages!!! I was focusing on the size of the whole task ahead of me, rather than on what I could do that day, that week, or that month.

The funny thing is, I knew even as I sat there that I shouldn't be thinking this way. I just didn't know how to break myself out of the mindset.

Here's a little tip that might help you if you're ever in a similar position:
  1. save your document into a new file (so you don't lose/delete your manuscript while you're cutting and pasting);
  2. using the new document, cut a section out of the manuscript. I have 4 parts in my manuscript, so I cut out the whole of Part 1. But you may prefer to do this by chapters (eg 4 chapters), or pages (eg 30 pages). Whichever approach you take, I wouldn't go much higher than 50 pages in total;
  3. create a new document and paste the section you cut from your manuscript into the new document. Save this under a label you can easily find (I called mine "Part 1 - From The Other Side");
  4. Repeat until you have fully divided your manuscript into sections;
  5. Close all the documents except the first (eg my Part 1).
Whether you print out the document or work by computer, you now have a very short document to work on. And it's amazing how quickly you can revise and edit a 30 or 40 or 50 page document when there aren't 250 plus pages waiting to be revised behind it. With me, this actually tricked my mind past my revision-block AND got me all psyched-up about revising again.

Once you're finished with the first document, simply move onto the second. Once you've finished them all and made the edits in your computer (as many rounds as necessary), simply copy the revised sections back into the one document. Then rinse and repeat as appropriate...

Obviously this may not work if you're still carrying out structural revisions, so it may be more appropriate to wait until your structure is in place and you're revising by scene or by chapter or working on line edits. But once you're in that place, give it a go, hopefully it will do the trick for you as well.

Have you ever tried anything similar? How does it work for you?


PK HREZO said...

I agree. I tend to revise at random once my first round is done. I find that I focus on the chapter as an individul piece of work, which helps tighten and polish it. I don't usually print it out (cuz I'm a tree hugger) but it prolly helps to do that.
So I'll just pick a chapter, or I'll work backwards from end to start.

Joanna St. James said...

I am doing chapter by chapter too - well that is the plan.

Tessa Quin said...

Great advice :)

I'll probably revise the MG as a whole, since it's only around 20,000 words (probably need to find a way to make it longer...), but when I dive back into BoB, I'll use that method.

I'll probably divide it by the acts to make each act the most optimum and have everything following up to it. So, the 30 first pages for the first problem/decision making, etc.

Colene Murphy said...

Awesome advice! Thanks! Good luck on your continued revisions.

Hart Johnson said...

I work by chapter but I have the whole thing sitting there--often a revision will have repercussions... Last night I cursed myself for failing to bring post-it notes to the tub, as i REALLY needed to find an earlier section and mark the change THERE too...

I think though, I am a bit of a freak--I am much better as a marathoner than a sprinter, so I find it encouraging to have the DONE stuff sitting there next to me while I keep plugging away--starting is exciting, but knocking off those sections? WAHOO!

Golden Eagle said...

Thanks for the advice! This sounds like it would work for me--cutting things up into more handleable sections is less daunting than an entire novel.

Mary Mary said...

Great advice! Since I work so frequently with my critique group, my work always gets divided into two chapters at a time. I know what needs to be worked on because it's all grouped under those two particular chapters that were critiqued by my group. It makes the process easier, and anything that makes it easier is worth trying!

Christopher said...

I personally don't like breaking up anything I do. It's probably why I'm a bit of a procrastinator. It keeps the big daunting thing in front of me and while it seems ridiculous from a practical stand point I'm very much a big picture guy and I think that has something to do with it.

Amy Holder said...

This is fantastic advice! Revision always seems more doable when you break up the workload into smaller parts.

erica and christy said...

I just plow through. A very slow plow impeded by many road blocks (children, food, laundry, pets, job, hubby, holidays, etc.). Breaking it down into sections could help - I could even do a chapter a day and go faster than I did in the past month. Good luck with yours!

Amie Kaufman said...

Excellent timing, I need all the revision help I can get! Breaking it down into sections definitely helps me -- when I summarised each of my chapters, I realised none of them were as daunting as I'd thought.

Adina West said...

Good advice Rach. I sort of applied it in reverse; I had my original first draft broken into different documents, one for each subplot/group of characters. I didn't weave them all together until the end, and I certainly found it easier to work this way.
As many of my edits were structural, and, like Hart mentions above, one change might have meant going back through and tweaking things in earlier chapters, I did need to keep it as one document much of the time. But I only focused on one thing at a time, and tried not to let myself get overwhelmed by what was 'still to do'.
Hope your approach works wonderfully for you. Sounds like the end is in sight!

aisyahputrisetiawan said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)
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