Monday 25 January 2021

Outlining While Revising - The After Process


I've not done many pieces on my revision process, and since I found a lot of the tips from other writers helpful when approaching my own revisions, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about that today. I generally revise two books a year, as well as go through the professional editing process for those two. I've been doing revisions for a number of years, and my process has switched and changed a lot since I first started, but today I wanted to talk about a trick I found useful when it comes to being a plantser drafting wise, and that is to outline as you revise.

Now the planners reading this will be like: duh, of course you do, but for me as a minimal planner and mostly discovery writer during drafting, it didn't seem obvious. I forget who I found this tip from, but it has helped me so much. I basically recommend it to anyone who is struggling to keep track of what needs to be changed and when and how. I don't re-write my whole book for a second draft, but will go through and leave notes both in the document and on an outline as I read through it for the first time since it was finished. This allows me to refresh the story in my head, but also see things that I'd like to change in the next draft.

From there I will construct my outline. I write down a summary of what happens in every chapter and add any tweaks and changes that I'd like to work into it. As I go through the revision process, I will tackle first the big picture stuff, like plot points that don't work, or things that need to be added into it, before I go onto a line by line or grammar and spelling process. For me it doesn't make sense to be worried about the sentence flow when you're not even sure that sentence will make the cut. Of course everyone approaches it differently, but that's the way I see it.

Within my outline I have a colour-coded system for each plot point, arc and other big picture things that need to be woven through the chapters. Red is usually something that needs to get cut or changed massively so will be a lot of rewriting, green is for smaller plot/arc changes that will have to be threaded through the book, yellow is something that I'm not completely sure if it works or not (and sometimes they will stay like that as I move though drafts), and purple are plot points that can't be changed without having a massive effect on the rest of the book, or series as a whole.

Now I've talked about before that I am lucky enough to both write fast and have a backlog of books to publish so that I can, usually, finish a series completely before I start publishing. And because of this, that means when book one is revised, I can tackle things that needed to be in the story from the start that I didn't really know about until I was deeper into the series as a whole. This is a huge plus for me because a lot of the series I'm writing, or have written, all fall into a pattern of there being a huge overarching plot and sometimes I don't know the ending until I get there.

This is relevant because when revising, I can include things on my outline, like where plot points have to be added because of changes in book one. For example, last year I released the first book in the Cramping Chronicles series. I'm now revising the second one, there were things that changed drastically in book one, that now need to lead into and be touched upon in book two, and on and on it goes. Because I have this outline that I'm following, it makes for a much smoother revision process. I can also start a document that will be for book three, and so on, if there are more changes that I know will need to carry over. It just makes my life, and my revision process all the more easier.

So basically, I feel like if you're a pantser or a plantser, then maybe think about doing an outline when it comes to revision. There are numerous ways to do it, and it might take a bit of back and forth to find the way that works for you, but it can be an amazing tool to use.

Any questions? Lemme know in the comments below!

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