Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Revision Process Thoughts

Recently, I have been thinking about how I approach revisions for novels and picture books. Each book is different, so each book will have different needs. Though I use some different techniques for picture books than other stories, in most ways my revision process is the same for each book.
While revising, I continually work through these three steps:
1) Sensing or detecting that either something is "off" or that something more is needed.
2) Determining what is needed in each sentence, scene, character arc, plot so #1 will be resolved.
3) Choosing the best techniques to achieve this change, while remembering the needs of the story and characters.
Revision Stages
I find that my revisions pass through several fluid stages. Always, while writing and revising I sense and feel the story. I listen to my instincts and listen to my characters.
>Early revisions (After I’ve written my exploratory draft)
This is where I ask: Who are my characters? What it this story really about? What do my characters really want?
>Mid-early revisions
This is where I experiment and figure out the best way to tell the story, including point of view, tense, and where the story truly begins. I also continue to go deeper into characters during these revisions.
>Mid-later revisions
This is where I craft the story. I examine character arcs; re-examine and adjust plot; add layers to the story; cut and add characters, scenes, chapters. I still make substantial changes at this time.
>Late revisions
This is where I fine tune everything from sentences to chapters to characters.
I might revisit an earlier revision stage after letting a manuscript sit (one of the best things for a book) or after discovering something critical that I need to alter. For example, a little over a year ago, when in some middle-early revisions with River, my YA adventure/suspense novel, I sensed/discovered what was off, chose to change the premise, which meant I deleted everything I had and rewrote a new draft, which brought me again to early revisions.
I have many approaches (essentially revision strategies and techniques) that I use as I revise which help me explore my stories. Also, I find ways to defamiliarize the story, so it feels fresh and new as I work on it.
My revision process requires a lot of rewriting and involves both analytical approaches, instinct, and struggling to find the emotional core of the story.
I wonder how much my revision process will change over time. I will likely find my process evolves as I gain experience and adjust my revision approach for each book.