My Revision Process – Basic Overview

Getting the desk organized right now. In the rush to get to the emergency room, and then the hospital, the writing desk took a serious hit. It’s hard to work on writing and revision in the midst of chaos and clutter.

Someone asked me last night how I approach revision. I thought I would put down my thoughts on that.

Every writer is different on how they approach the various aspects of their writing. That certainly includes revision. Some like to revise by cycling (going back to the chapter before, put in the revisions, then start typing new. Rinse. Repeat). Some throw everything in, and then more, and in revision clean it all up (taker-outers). Some write lean and need to fill in various aspects during revision (putter-inners). Some use the first draft as a guide to write a whole new version from scratch (redrafters).

So many ways to do revision.

And me? Overall, I’m a putter-inner, but even that is changing as I continue my journey as a writer. Current first drafts have more of the parts I used to write lean on. This is nice, as it makes the revision all the faster.

Here are my main writing and revision steps nowadays:

I write the first draft as fast as I can.

For example, none of the remaining 5 books of the String Weavers took more than a month to write. One of them took around 12 days. Writing that fast allows me to stay immersed in the story and characters. I don’t stop and go back to change those things right then, even if they are big changes. That brings in the left inner-editor side of the brain. While working on a first draft, I want to remain firmly in the right creative side of the brain. So, I continue on as if the changes have already been made

On the side I make notes.

Jotting down things that come to mind, and things I realize I need to change in what I’ve previously written. Things like, “Go back and plant this clue in such-and-such scene.” “Refine character personality at the very beginning.” “Combine these two characters.” Sometimes with a note directly in the manuscript that from that point forward the change had been made. If the change is big enough.

One big revision draft.

Yep, only one huge revision draft. This is where I go through all of those notes, make sure they still apply, or see if any contradict each other, organize them in as close to chronological order as I can, and then use the notes to fix and polish up the story. This usually happens with one big pass from the start of the book to the end, with the occasional cycling to make sure I get some progressions right.

This is what I have been doing the past three days. Usually it doesn’t take that long, but 1. there are obviously other things taking a lot of my time and mental space right now, and 2. all of these 5 books are interconnected, so I had to go into several different places to make sure I had all the notes pertaining to each book.

The time it takes to do this one big revision pass varies on the book, as well as how long ago I wrote the book. I’ve noticed that my current first drafts are much cleaner than in the past. This is to be expected. By writing more, I am ‘practicing’ and getting better. With practice, typically a person gets better. That’s the way it is with pretty much anything else, so why shouldn’t it apply to writing?

On each of these books, if I can keep at it, I expect each to take less than a month to revise. Considering the time constraint with Mother Hen’s health and probably prognosis, I would love to get it closer to 3 weeks. We’ll see how I do.

Spell-check and grammar-check.

I have to be careful with both of these. With science fiction, and especially this series, I get wrong red-flags with both.

Even with more contemporary work, I have to be careful with the grammar-checkers. On top of that, I also don’t always agree with the grammar-checkers. Fiction writing is not always grammatically correct. In fact, perfect grammar in fiction can tend to be dull and boring.

Off to the first (beta) reader!

In this case, that is Mother Hen. She awaits with her red pen and a notebook. Ready to find the missing words and spelling issues the spell-check missed (copyediting), as well as any story problems.

And yes, she just plain enjoys the reading. First reading she does for the pleasure of it, while marking the obvious things. Second read-through is the detail work.

A note on this: I let her know if I would like her opinion on a any specific aspect of the story.

Fix what I agree with.

No, I don’t always agree with some of the issues brought up. But, I honestly think about each one. Sometimes what a first-readers identifies as a problem isn’t the actual problem. It’s something else. As the writer, it’s up to me to figure out what it is. If I’m waffling, I’ll have someone else read the story, especially if it’s shorter. And then I’ll fix it (or not fix it. Or fix the ‘other’ thing that was causing a perception issue). Usually this takes less than a day.

There it is.

The basic revision process. This is the one I’m using on the String Weaver books, with one small adjustment.

There is a reason I wrote all of the remaining 5 books last year before stopping to revise and release them. The books in this series are tightly connected. Much more so than even my “Salmon Run” series. I KNOW that I will be cycling through previous books to put in little tidbits as I revise the later ones. It will happen. What I don’t know is how much it will happen. Because of this, the books will not be released to the general public until all of them are revised.

Now back to finishing the desk clean-up! We have some revision to do!

(If anyone wants to help, consider a donation that will go directly towards Mother Hen’s treatment and care at Go Fund Me.)

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J.A. Marlow

Night of the Aurora (Salmon Run - Book 1)Welcome to Salmon Run, Alaska! A place of wild animals, wild land, and wild inhabitants…oh, and native legends come alive and an inter-planetary alien conflict at their backdoor.

A new life in Alaska, a massive aurora, and a hidden spaceship under the ice and snow…

For Hawk and Zach Callahan, getting to the small town of Salmon Run presents the first challenge. They think they have it made when they board the unique train that will take them through a dark roadless wilderness to their new home. The same night a massive Aurora Borealis strands them in the middle of nowhere.

An Aurora also affecting an alien spaceship hidden beneath the ice and snow…

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