We caught up with Susan Dennard, author of The Witchlands Series, soon to be continued in her newest book, Bloodwitch, to get an insight into her writing process, and her step-by-step guide to revising her books!
My revising process is...well, the word "intense" comes to mind.
As I've talked about before, I'm not a particularly good writer. I ramble, backtrack, infodump, and pretty much do everything one shouldn't do to tell a good story.
But you know what? I'm a darn good re-writer and an even better reviser.
The key to my process is having a plan and staying organized. I never dive into revisions without a clear idea of what I need to do next--of what my story needs next in order to reach that goal of book-awesomeness. ;)
You'll notice as I go through the steps of my revising process that I link to various pages. These are the lessons from my "Sooz's Guide to Revisions". I get much more in-depth with each of these steps in that guide, and there are even worksheets for people to follow (in case you wanna give my method a try ;)).
So step 1 is figuring out what the heck I wrote.
To do this, I first print out the entire manuscript, and then I read that entire manuscript in one sitting. As I read, I take copious notes of all the issues (and I also scribble down any solutions that come to mind).
I'm all about the color-coding (as you can see here), and I'm DEFINITELY all about the "Deal With Big Issues First". What's the point in line-editing or tweaking a scene if you decide later on to cut that scene?
Step 2 is getting about getting organized.
I break up the entire book by scene, and I write out index cards that summarize each scene. As I make these scene cards, I try to spot areas where the conflict is non-existent or else there is too much happening in one scene.
Once I've got my cards ready, I move to step 3: figuring out what the "perfect" book is.
I know that The Book I Wrote ≠ The Book I Wanted to Write. And it's also quite possible that The Story I Wanted To Tell Originally ≠ The Story I Want To Tell Now.
That's okay. You've got to be organic in your writing/revising. You have to be able to accept that maybe the way you intended a character or plot point isn't actually what the story needs.
So for this step, I sit down and map out the EXACT book I want now--a.k.a. "the Perfect Book". If my story was finished and on shelves, what would I want it to be like?
Step 4 is turning that Perfect Book into a Plan of Attack.
What do I need to change in order to have the Perfect Book? A more 3D villain? A bigger, more intense climax? A new subplot between the heroine and the hero?
I analyze each change by its category--plot, character, setting, and "other". Then I go through and leave little color-coded post-its on each of my scene cards. This allows me to go through my scenes one-by-one and handle each problem one-by-one. It also allows me to always know what I've done and what still needs to be done.
The hardest and longest step is step 5: writing in all the necessary changes.
With that manuscript I printed in step 1, I go back through and make changes to my story (you can see what I mean here). As I address each issue, I yank the corresponding post-it off my scene card. :) Again, I always know what problems I've fixed and what I still need to address. Some scenes require more work than others, and some scenes are so unsalvageable, they require a COMPLETE rewrite.
The key here is to stay focused and not let yourself get overwhelmed. Take one scene card at a time, and don't worry about what comes next.
The final step is to type in those written changes and line edit. This is pretty straightforward--you type in all the handwritten changes, and you line edit as you go. (Or you can try to line edit as you go. I often find I need to print the whole thing out again to do a truly decent job of line editing.) When you're finished, you SHOULD (in theory) have a solidly revised novel. Now, I say "in theory" because it doesn't always happen in such a straightforward manner. I usually write 2/3 to 3/4 of the book before I start revisions. After I revise that first chunk, I then go back and write the end (or else I revise the whole chunk again if it's total scheiβe).
At the end of the day, we all have different methods for revising--different means to the same end: a good book. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. All the same, I hope I've managed to give a few helpful pointers--or at least some entertaining insight into my slightly OCD revisions process. ;)
This piece originally ran on http://aliciagregoire.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/susan-dennard-and-revision-process.html