Friday, September 2, 2011

Transcendental Revisions, Part 1

It seems like every time I turn around, I’ve got a novel to revise. This week I began work on The Last Guest, which is what I’m calling my philosophical detective novel for now. I am fond of the title but Mighty Reader gives it a shrug. She prefers The Transcendental Detective but I, happily, get the only vote at this stage. I digress.

So I’m revising yet another novel. I have decided to work on this one in discrete stages. Stage One, which is where I am now, is essentially just a read-through to see how the book feels as a whole. Certainly I’m doing edits as I go along, to beautify and clarify the prose, but I’m not doing any real work yet. I printed the full manuscript out on letter-sized pages, single space with a 1” left margin and a 3” right margin. 12-point TNR type, I believe. The 3” margin is so that I have room to make extensive notes to myself about the work I might want to do in the way of a serious revision. Mostly, so far, it’s pretty clean, but some pages look like this:

I’ve written a couple of thousand additional words already, mostly to expand scenes and add action I think the story needs. I’ll add some unknown number of scenes during the revisions; unless I am inspired to write the new scene immediately, I’m just making notes and moving on. I’m also looking for places to insert the ideas I had while writing the first draft, ideas that I scribbled onto note cards rather than working into the narrative. My rule this time around was to always go forward until the first draft was complete; stopping and rewriting was not allowed.

Today I reached the halfway point through this read-through. I figure I’ll be finished with this stage in another week easily, and then I’ll sit down, type in all the edits and then write out all of the new scenes or expansions of existing scenes. That will take another week or two, and probably I’ll type them into the master document as I go along (though they’ll be written longhand because that’s how I work). After that, I’ll have a finished second draft that I’ll print out once again in the same format as this version. There’ll be another read-through, marking up as I go along, but hopefully I won’t have a lot of big changes to make at that stage. The finished third draft will be offered to a select few readers for comments and then there will be either more revisions or not (likely there will) and then, oh then, off the completed novel will go to my fabulous agent. How long will all of this take? I don’t know. I’d like to think that the book is solid enough now that I can be rid of it by Halloween. We’ll see.


  1. Good luck with the revisions, Scott. I'm glad you're editing on a hard copy, I found it more helpful than editing on the screen.

  2. Mayowa: I'm making quick work of these revision, so far. I'm about 2/3 of the way through the MS now. I've added a couple of cool scenes and fixed some inconsistencies having to do with dates and ages. I hate that sort of stuff. The next revision, I think, will be for going back and adding in more historical details to give more of a 1935 flavor to the story. I think. A little bit of that stuff goes a long way in my opinion.

    One thing about revising from a hard copy is that it gives you a real sense of how much progress you're making. You can also see right away which chunks of text you haven't paid much attention to. Forget Word(tm) and it's "track changes" option. Give me a good red pen and a clean printout.

  3. Hey Scott,

    Glad progress has been quick. I see on a newer post, you're pretty much done with the first round. Well done sir.

    One more thing on editing on hard copy. I find that i don't glaze over as much when it's on paper. Hmnn, maybe it's a bad omen for my writing that I glaze over at all heh.

  4. Mayowa: No, it's not you, it's the computer! I think that when we look at something on paper, we tend to look up away from the paper more often than when we look at a computer, and that this looking away and letting our eyes refocus at a different distance--even for a second--reduces fatigue. I also think that the physical interactivity of marking up a sheet of paper with a pen helps us focus. We're moving our whole bodies more than when we sit looking at a screen, even if we're just changing position a little bit on our sofa or whatever. I have a whole theory about how computers limit the way we work and have a general soporific/deadening effect.

  5. That makes a lot of sense. I don't know if I can hack actually writing in long hand (as opposed to just revising) but I think I want to give it a shot (maybe for a short story to start heh).

    Will let you know how it goes.