Listening to: Sia – 1000 Forms of Fear
Over the last six months or so, I set aside my current WIP to do some heavy revisions on another manuscript near and dear to me (aren’t they all, though). The manuscript had a lot of work to be done, almost a seventy-five percent of it tossed out and rewritten, and when I first sat down to begin editing it felt daunting. A task that seemed almost insurmountable. After my agent and I chatted through the long list of feedback she had for me, she paused at the end and said (probably due to my silence as I digested all she had told me), “if this feels like too much, we can work on another project.” She wasn’t telling me she wasn’t willing to put the work in, she was simply stating that if I didn’t want to, given the extent of the overhaul, she would understand.
But I believed in my story, and even though there was a lot of work to be done, so did she. Besides, I do enjoy a good challenge, and this story challenged me more than any other I’ve written to this point has. Challenge, accepted.
So, at the suggestion of my agent, I created a chapter-by-chapter outline. Basically, a detailed synopsis of each chapter. Where it starts, were it ends, what happens in the middle. I’ve created synopses for previous books, but never as a tool for revisions. Now, I have to mention here that I am a half-plotter/half-pantser writer. And yes, I do believe that’s a thing. I like a general outline for my stories, but then as I write I like the characters and their journeys to do whatever they want and not be restricted to what I pre-defined in the outline. It’s great for first drafts for me personally. But editing requires a more organized approach. As I worked chapter by chapter, outlining every important scene, I started to see the places I needed to cut out, improve upon, the elements missing, more so than I ever had with a synopsis. It gave me a map of where I needed to address the feedback I’d received, and it did it in a way that was easy for me to address and didn’t seem overwhelming. It basically looked like this for each chapter, thanks to Lara Willard’s fabulous recommendations on how to create this type of outline:
How it begins:
How it ends:
What happens between those two points?
All the details, details, details!
Then I struck-through things I was removing, and highlighted things I was adding in. Super simple, but it made the major edits I did that much easier to manage, and in the end, the book finished in a place I am incredibly proud of, and so was my agent. So, as I dive back into my current WIP, I have a new tool to use for revisions and that makes the writer nerd in me very happy. I like to think about it as another weapon to add to my arsenal of writing super powers.