My Revision Process

This is what my desk currently looks like…

Because I am in the middle of massive re-visioning of my book.

Everyone has a process for this. A plan of attack.

Here’s what works for me.

  1. I print out the entire manuscript.
  2. I read the first 100 pages and make “macro-edits” with my red pen. Macro-edits are first impressions that I jot down as I read, like “this is too mechanical” or “awkward” or “why is this here” This is not the stage where I try to fix everything. This is the stage where I try to identify problem areas. (I try to do this all in one day)
  3. Now that I have an idea of what happens across those 100 pages, I go chapter by chapterย and do “micro-edits.” Micro-edits are where I try to clarify problem areas and attempt solutions. I also apply Margie Lawson’s Master Editing checklist.
  4. After the first round of edits, I re-read the entire chapter as I type the edits in. ย (Step 3&4 can take 1-2 days because I like to let my edits breathe and my thoughts fully percolate before I make actual changes.)
  5. I print a clean copy and go over it again. Yup again. Because inevitably something bothered me and I couldn’t articulate it the first two times. But usually by the third go through, I can. Sometimes I’m still feeling dissatisfied. That’s when I add a fourth round. (This can take 1-2 days too.)
  6. If I cannot resolve something or explain what is wrong, I write a post-it to remind me to revisit the issue later and stick it over my desk.
  7. Then I move on to the next chapter and go through this all over again.
  8. When I hit the 50 page mark or an appropriate chapter break, I stop and print out those 30-50 pages. I paper edit them once. Then I re-edit as I type in my changes. (I try to take a 4 hour break in between. That lets my mind rest and also ruminate)
  9. Back to chapter-by-chapter edits.
  10. Once I hit another 50 pages, I do #8 again.
  11. I print all 100 pages and go over them with a pen. (In a day)
  12. Then I re-edit as I type those revisions in.
  13. I move on to the next 100 pages and repeat steps 2-12.
  14. I move on to the next 100 pages and repeat steps 2-12.
  15. Ideally, I have my beta readers and critique partner read the manuscript and get me feedback before step 16. But in a time crunch like now, I will power ahead. Big hug to my critique partner Katrina Bender for amazing & insightful feedback on pages 1-115!
  16. For my final edits, I reprint the new version of the manuscript and I go through it in 100 page increments. By now, I should have caught most everything so this is more of a copy edit round. I will still clean up issues, but hopefully I’ve taken care of most of them already.

I know this sounds really intensive, but it’s what works for me. It gives me confidence that I caught most everything. Right now it has to be done in 6 weeks. Eight weeks makes this more doable.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to My Revision Process

  1. That’s a very studied process, Kourtney. I think your choice of doing it in 50 or 100 page increments is wise–those are manageable chunks to tackle at a time. Good luck with it!

    • Thanks, Ramona. I’ve heard advice to read the whole book through on the first go, but I found that to be overwhelming. 100 pages is very doable for me. I’ve managed to trim my word count from 75k to 67k, which is a tighter read and a better range for YA.

  2. Phew it does sound intense but really systematic, I like it. Good luck!

    • Thanks for stopping by Victoria. The repetition is key because sometimes it takes me a while to articulate what isn’t working and how to fix it. And something I might tolerate on the first read will get under my skin by the third read. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks!

  3. Janet says:

    I am editing at the moment as well. I’m taking the printed vesion will all its markups and then retyping it in from scratch. I find this faster then deleting / adding text to an older copy. The only problem is I’ll need someone with fresh eyes to read it again to pick up small typos (especially since the F key on my keyboard is sticking – the word for often is just or!). Good luck.

    • That sound like a good idea if you’ve re-written the entire novel as you went. Might be easier to retype than to delete and add in. Ouch to the sticking F key. My mom is my copy editor. She is a grammar lover and she catches everything. I can’t believe how many typos I miss because I know by heart what should be on the page so I “see” it there and miss my own mistakes. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. themadgayman says:

    It sounds like a wonderful process. Right now, I am trying to make my brain work and write as it is! A part of me wonders if I can do a series because I keep wanting to work on other ideas. Then again, maybe my head isn’t ready to settle with these characters again. It probably wants to journey in new lands, meet new people, etc.

    I love your desk by the way, even with all the paperwork. You have room. Plus, it’s dark wood which is delicious (yes I use that word because it’s delicious for my eyes and mind; my brain just eats it up, NOM NOM NOM!).

    • Thanks. It’s rigorous, but I think it helps me to feel confident that I caught everything I could. It is hard to focus on one book. I try to draft quickly just to get it down. Maybe when the ideas come, write them down and put them in a file for later. That way you aren’t saying no, but just not right now? Or switch and work on one of those concepts? Maybe outline it?

      It’s my dream desk. Ever since I was a little girl I wanted a secretary desk with a cabinet full of books over it. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I finally got it with part of my bonus back in 2007. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s a decadent treat. ;P

  5. crubin says:

    As someone waiting to hear from her editor regarding the inevitable manuscript changes, this was very helpful. As always, thanks, Kourtney! And thanks for the link to Margie Lawson. I’m going to look more into that.

    Hope you are keeping yourself healthy in this massive revision phase! Take a few moments for yourself. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Congrats Carrie! That is so amazing that you have an editor and are soon to be working through revisions to have a polished published book! Margie gave me such practical processes for self editing and makes up the core of what I look for–I had to mention her. ๐Ÿ˜‰ For $22, it’s a great self study tool.

      After the bout of eye strain last week, I’m limiting my online time and my computer time. I’ve added more breaks and more outdoor time to get my eyes looking off in the distance too. And I put another lamp to my room which is always helpful. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Bella says:

    I should confess that the revision process is what I most hate about writing. I know it’s necessary, crucial even, if we’re to transmit our message in the best way possible. That said, at times I find myself hanging on tightly to every word I’ve written, afraid that if I remove or change one, it will ruin my initial thought. Yes, I have a long way to go before I can say I’ve mastered this writing stage! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I think the most important thing when it comes to clinging to words (which I am very guilty of too) is time. I let the manuscript sit for a few months. Also keep the original copy so you can always revert back to it. That gives you a security blanket and allows you to take risks without losing your original stuff. Just in case the risk doesn’t pay off.

      This manuscript has been shopped around and didn’t find an agent. I got a good amount of feedback and then decided to re-vision the book. Not just make basic edits, but pretty much rewrite a good amount of it based on the feedback. I also found a kick butt critique partner to work through it with me and a few new betas to give feedback.

      I don’t know that we ever master it, but we progress and we get better. There is always something new to learn. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  7. J.C.V. says:

    Great job! Look at all the action going on at your desk. I bet that book is going to be fantastic once you’ve completed all your edits.

    • Thanks! It’s pretty intense. But the old manuscript wasn’t working so I had to really take it apart and refurbish it. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Fingers crossed and editor or agent falls in love with it.

  8. Samir says:

    Wow… that’s meticulous, if I didn’t know better I’d say you dabbled with programming before from the way you logically ordered your process ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Really cool to share this, though. It’s great to see different processes that work and produce desired outcomes for different people.

    • LOL. I was an auditor and a management consultant. Most of my work was about creating processes and critiquing processes. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I read several books on self editing, went to workshops and did a self study, and then put together what resonated with me. I know everyone is different in their approach to editing and it’s not a one method-fits-all kind of thing. But I thought it might be helpful to hear what I do. Hopefully, it works. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll keep you updated.

  9. sportsjim81 says:

    First of all, I am totally jealous of your writing desk/chair/area. I currently live in a house that could be better described as an extra large hotel room, in which lives me, my wife, my daughter, my son, and my two dogs. I do not have a writing space. Period.

    Second of all, I like to read these insightful posts into other writer’s techniques and processes. Very helpful. Great post!

    • Thanks Jim! The desk is my dream desk. I bought it for myself back in 2007. The chair–funny story. In NY, I lived in a nice doorman building. The code is anything left in the hallway by the elevator or garbage room for over two hours is free for the taking. I walked by this chair and loved it. So did my mom. We waited. I even gave it 3 hours to be generous. Then I wheeled that baby into its new home.

      I’m sorry to hear you don’t have writing space in your current digs. Ouch. I used the dining room table for a while before I got my desk.

      Aw, thanks! I thought hmm while I am actually in the middle of this process, it might be good to document it for myself and others. Just in case it’s a while before I revise something again.

  10. Sounds like a thorough and effective regime, Kourtney. Printing out pages and applying those micro-edits are crucial for me, too. Good luck!

  11. It's the little things that make life great.berry says:

    Whatever works. Love all the post it notes.

  12. jmmcdowell says:

    Whew, that is definitely thorough editing! I do read my manuscript once all the way through for my first round of editing a draft. I mark obvious things like you mention and jot down questions like, “does this scene flow well?” or “should I add more foreshadowing here?” Then I tackle things on a chapter by chapter basis.

    And I must be the most obsessive person around about keeping older drafts. When I’m really working on a manuscript, I save copies every two weeks. And I keep them all. But that way I know I haven’t lost something that I might want to bring back later.

    My desk is still the first dining room table my husband and I bought together. It’s a small Scandanavian one with teak veneer. But I don’t think I’d trade it. It’s a comfortable size and height and works well for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Good luck with all the workโ€”I know you’ll come out of it with an awesome manuscript!

    • Thanks JM!

      Nice to hear we have a similar process going from big picture to individual chapters. ๐Ÿ™‚

      My laptop backs up daily to an external drive so I have old versions, and periodically I send them to my web designer for backing up. I only keep one working copy so I don’t accidently work in the wrong draft.

      Aw that’s a desk full of memories. As long as it suits your purposes and creates a comfy workspace–that’s all that matters.

      Thanks! Right now I’m creating a list of overused words. Wrap, turn, made, shook, and voice are topping the list. But it’s good to keep track so I can go back and change some of them. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. klynwurth says:

    Thanks for including us by describing your process. Bravo! Glad you’re taking care of those eyes, too.

    • K. Lyn, glad you liked the post! It’s hard to find a method that works because everyone is so different. I spent a year experimenting with different methods of self-editing and revision. My process sorta evolved into this. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m trying to keep the computer time down and to make sure I have tons of lights on in my room. It’s almost a beacon in my neighborhood. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • klynwurth says:

        Kourtney, I’m glad to hear back from you…and call me “Kelly.” I use the “K. Lyn” for writing because I married into being “Kelly Wurth,” when there was already a cousin (my husband’s) with that name. I don’t want to share with/inflict on her my success/notoriety, whichever results from my writing career… enjoy the evening, Kourtney.

        • Sure Kelly! ๐Ÿ™‚ Ah, that makes sense. It’s hard to have people with the exact same name in one family. My grandfather was Eugene, as was my uncle and my cousin. All with the same last name. Very confusing at family events when someone asked where Eugene was. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Smart of you to differentiate yourself in your writing, but you also miss out on any of her success/notoriety. ๐Ÿ™‚ Have a nice night.

  14. jbw0123 says:

    I like the post-its over the very cool desk. Thanks for the Margie Lawson link. I book marked it for the big day when my draft is done, and it’s time to start round two.

    • Thanks. I don’t have a corkboard or whiteboard so I improvised. ๐Ÿ™‚ I <3 my desk. It has cabinets below too. The self study is 300 pages so it takes about 5-8 weeks to work through on your own with the exercises. But the knowledge is uber useful. Good luck with the drafting!

  15. 4amWriter says:

    I love the pic of your workplace. Even for a lot of paper you still keep it very tidy and organized. You have given me a gentle nudge to do some serious re-organizing of my study.

    Phew, your revision process sounds like a doozy. I heart it, actually. My process is intense like that, but much more scattered because when I fix one thing I need to track the change to make sure it is consistent throughout ms.

    You are so committed and dedicated, I really commend you. I can just tell your book is going to be outstanding because of all the work you continually put into it.

    Take a couple of hours for yourself, don’t forget ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks Kathryn! I try to keep 3 piles on the desk plus the folders in the compartment. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The rest of my room…is well less organized.

      It’s intense, but it’s the only way I feel confident in my work. I do track the ripple effect of changes on post-its or fast forward to that section and make a change or make a comment in the ms that a change needs to be made. Sometimes even changes at the end ripple back. LOL.

      Thanks. I hope so. I’m sending it out on Monday. I can’t believe it. Monday.

      I’m having a family dinner today and doing laundry today.That’s my fun time this weekend. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Pingback: Outline Eureka! « Audrey Kalman

Any thoughts or reactions or favorite foods you want to share?