This song by The Beatles is definitely my revision anthem this year. Aside from being a beautiful song, it’s also full of yearning. And that is what revising UNCHURCHED has been like for me: a lot of yearning. Why can’t it just BE the book I want it to be? I’ve already put in so much work, and now I have to do even more?
I foolishly thought I had a better handle on revising. I forgot that revision is, essentially, problem solving. And sometimes you have to get really creative to solve those problems.
Steps I’ve Already Taken
Let it sit for a minimum of four weeks. This step helps me break out of Drafting Mode and see with fresh eyes. If you can take a longer break do so! I find a month is when I start to get irresistibly itchy to dive back in, but if for some reason I didn’t want to look at it again I would let it keep resting.
Reread the complete manuscript. This may be obvious, but it’s vital. You can’t revise if you don’t know what you have. You’ll probably have to do this a lot.
Created a Scene Map. A scene map is a spreadsheet cataloging what’s actually on the page, as opposed to what you outlined or what you remember writing. I’m planning a longer post where I go into detail.
Ran through Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel course (not an affiliate link), which is excellent. Holly’s exercises provide concrete, quantifiable ways to assess your manuscript. This took my Draft Zero to a proper First Draft.
Shared with my alpha reader and critique partners. This may seem early in the process but it’s the right time for me, because by that point I’m so deep in the weeds I can’t see anything clearly anymore.
Took another break. There’s no point in tinkering while others are reading. I allowed several weeks for feedback but all my readers got back to me quickly, so I ended up going back in sooner than I anticipated.
Processed the edit letters and notes. My wonderful readers wrote a combined 30 pages of notes for me! This can be overwhelming, so I used a spreadsheet to identify the concrete changes they were suggesting, what kind of change it was, and who made the note so I could look for patterns. I did this in two stages, where I first just threw the notes into the spreadsheet, then looked at the content of the notes and made my own decisions about what to do with them.
That second stage took… forever. I’m not sure why. Probably because I hadn’t had enough of a break.
Gave myself permission to have a candy side project. “Candy” projects are fun things you work on just for yourself because you enjoy them, with no expectation of selling them. Allowing myself this indulgence helped me shift focus for a bit, put UNCHURCHED aside for a while, and breathe. That helped unstick my brain, and I was able to finish my analysis of the notes.
Joined editor Kate Brauning’s Breakthrough Writers Boot Camp program. This is a special program designed to help writers who are beyond the 101 level to “level up”, and WOW. I’m learning so much, on a variety of topics. I joined with the explicit goal of getting UNCHURCHED ready to query, and the lessons and feedback have been invaluable. Kate’s opened my eyes to new angles I need to consider. It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m going to have a better book when I’m done.
What I’m Going to Try Next
A new Outline of Doom. Before attempting this draft, I wrote a 20-page outline that was about 9,000 words. I wanted to ensure I had all the pieces in place, and I also wanted to be able to share it with my lovely CPs, and they needed context. I can skip the context layers this time around and focus on what I want to include in each chapter with more of an emphasis on priorities.
A chart tracking my protagonist’s agency. I did this for IN HER OWN SKIN a few years ago, before I drafted it, and it worked nicely. I have giant graph paper where I can write the major events down the left, then make detailed or abstract notations about what that story beat is accomplishing (or failing to). I love digital stuff, but I think I’m going analog with this one.
It’s going to be so much work, you guys. Because after I’ve done that then the real work begins…
Decide what stays and what goes on the page. I won’t be touching the actual draft for a while. It could be months before I get back to it. It will be at least a month of making those changes.
Then I get to start all over again with the rereading and sending to readers…
BUT I HAVE A PLAN NOW. And having a plan is everything.
So, my resolution is to stop whining about how long the road is and instead whisper words of wisdom: Let it be. There will be answer. Let it be.
Okay, that was cheesy. But the lesson still applies! Don’t stress over it, your subconscious is working on it.