I’m handing the blog over to the lovely Yvonne Ventresca today! Yvonne is YA author of PANDEMIC, a survival story set during a deadly outbreak, where a sixteen-year-old girl struggles against the disease and her own personal troubles. The debut novel is set for release with Sky Pony Press on May 6th 2014. I’m really looking forward to reading and delighted to have Yvonne stop by to share her top five revision tips. Over to you, Yvonne…
Five Novel Revision Tips by Yvonne Ventresca
Thanks, Kate, for the opportunity to guest post. “Friday Five” on my own blog is on hiatus as I participate in the A to Z Blogging Challenge during the month of April, so I’m happy to write about Five Novel Revision Tips here.
“Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.” — Raymond Chandler
A good critique group can make a huge difference with that clean-up process. I’ve only had online critique groups because of scheduling issues, but it works for me to exchange chapters by email or through a Yahoo group. When I first started, I enjoyed a group where members posted smaller pieces every two weeks. It kept me motivated to finish a project when I was in the early stages. Now I prefer complete manuscript exchanges with a few trusted writers/readers who can review the entire project at once.
Make a chart of anything problematic. In Pandemic, I needed to track events and the days they occurred, since the book takes place over a compressed time period. In my current WIP, I need to work out the timing of secret behind-the-scenes actions of a secondary character which become important later. You can do this in a spreadsheet or with pen and paper.
Keep a decision notebook (or Word document). I have one for each novel to keep track of the choices I’ve made along the way. It’s a central place to keep a list of names and physical descriptions and to remind me why I decided to make a character work in a certain job, for example. It’s also fun to see a project evolve as characters and events change. If I find interesting articles that relate to the story, I tape them in there so that my notes are in one place. I also use the last pages to track progress on word count or hours spent revising.
Use whatever other techniques work for you. Darcy Pattison (author of Novel Metamorphosis) recommends a “shrunken manuscript” approach where you decrease your font and margins and print your novel single-spaced on as few pages as possible. Then you can spread it across the floor and analyze it. I also like to use different color fonts when I’m revising so I can easily see what I’ve added. The fun colors (orange! violet! aqua!) are more cheerful than black and white, which helps during a tough revision.
Take time between revisions. Writing can be difficult work and when you finish a draft you want it to be perfect. Taking time between revisions lets you see the strengths and weaknesses of a project more clearly. Neil Gaiman said, “The best advice I can give on this is, once it’s done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes. When you’re ready, pick it up and read it, as if you’ve never read it before. If there are things you aren’t satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that’s revision.”