Revision Is My Favorite: Step One

I hate first drafts.

love revising.

First drafts are like where you dump the puzzle on the table and it’s 1500 pieces and you’re having regrets, and how much do you really want to put the pieces together to see a picture of a mountain and a lake anyway?

Revision is where the picture starts to look less like 1500 pieces piled up on the table, some facing down, some facing up, none of them looking like the picture on the front of the box, and more like …well, the picture on the front of the box.

And much like putting together a 1500 piece puzzle, I approach revision very methodically.

So as I revise The Balloonmakers #2, I’ll blog about each step. This is the first one.

I finished the first draft on Friday, March 31st. And this is the first time I’ve opened it since then. I’d ideally like to give it several weeks, but I don’t have that time because deadlines. So I let it sit for five days, and opened it up today.

Good news: It’s still a full first draft.
Bad news: it’s about as messy as I remember it being at 11pm on Friday when I finished it.

The first draft is 60,130 words. It has a different plot each act, and that’s not intentional. That’s because I kept changing my plot. This happened despite an outline, a synopsis, and an approved proposal. Because writing works like that.

So I knew there’d be gaping holes, and massive things to fix when I sat down to reverse outline it.

Reverse outlining, which I talked about before on this blog, is where you write down what actually exists on the page, versus what should exist (or you think it does in your head). I used my Scrivener dashboard to see what scenes actually existed. I don’t normally like Scrivener, but for this WIP, it works really well because my MCs are separated by an ocean for 90% of the book and I can move their plot pieces around to fit.

So even though I knew I was changing the first four chapters of this book completely, I wrote them down. 

I wrote out all of Ilse’s scenes on notecards (scene main event as a header, and then 3-4 pulse points in the scene), and then did all of Wolf’s. By doing it that way, instead of chronologically, I free up my brain to think about the story differently than the way the first draft flows, to move the pieces around later without feeling like I broke anything.

Once I had both sets of cards, I laid it out as it existed.

That’s what the middle row of photographs in this grid are. The plot, as it existed. Green for Ilse, yellow for Wolf.

Once I did that, I took out the scenes I knew didn’t work anymore with my new plot. It turned out that the new plot/final plot works just fine, other than the first four or five chapters. So then I added in the new cards for scenes I haven’t written yet. I did these in blue and pink so that I knew when I looked at my outline that these were yet unwritten.

I flipped these over to the blank sides so you could see everything without me blurring it. This is what it looked like then, after I added pink and blue, and put everything in the order I currently think it needs to go.

Then I added post-its to the cards that needed to be changed a little bit, but not enough to get a new card. Timeline changes, character introduction changes, etc. 

Then I added red balloons wherever I knew there were red balloons appear in the book. This is important as there are more balloons in this book, and Wolf and Ilse use them to communicate. 

Then I make sure that my three acts are roughly balanced. Each act here has about 14 cards now. In terms of tension and pacing, that feels OK right now. Not perfect, but OK. I’m probably going to change some of this going forward, but right now, this is the ‘outline’ I’m using to revise the book.

This is my first step. So now I’ll go revise the book, probably over the course of a week, to match this outline. Then I’ll repeat this, using but or therefore on post-it notes to connect beats, or to find gaps in my plot. After I finish those revisions, it’ll be ready for my beta readers.

To get back to the metaphor at the beginning, I dumped the puzzle out in March. And today I found all the straight-edged pieces. I’m working on the frame of the puzzle this week.

I’ll blog again at the next step, when we talk about lessons learned from revising draft 1, what the second reverse outline looks like, and how I know it’s ready for betas!

As always, if you have questions, ask away! Comments are moderated, so it may take time for the comment to show up with my answer 🙂

 

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