So you have finished your rough draft. You get some congratulations from family and friends, treat yourself to a nice meal, and stand at the top of the world. But you know you aren’t done. If you are anything like me, reading your rough draft will run to both extremes of the spectrum, from ‘Pulitzer Prize, here I come!’ to ‘I need to delete this sentence, format the hard drive and burn the computer so no one knows I did this.’ There’s still work to be done.
Revisions can be overwhelming to contemplate. It was hard enough finding works and breaking through writers block the first time, and now you have to question everything you’ve written? But it is something every writer has to learn to do.
The first time I had a rough draft to revise, I printed it out and decided to read right on through. I did not want to stop and start and work through every problem until I know how many problems I had. I puzzled out a system to identify what revisions I need to make, once which works surprisingly well. Read on and tell me what you think.
What you need:
- A printed copy of your draft.
- Pens: Red and Black is a must; other colors handy
- Highlighters: At least three colors.
- Post-It Notes:
Ideally you want to have the post-it notes and highlighters be of similar colors, but it’s not necessary. Keep these things nearby when you are rereading your work.
How it Works:
It’s pretty simple. When you read through your draft, you will use the color coded pens, highlighters and post-its to color code the errors, corrections and ideas you come across.
So what are you looking for?
General Proof Reading
Don’t hate the red pen. Embrace it. Every spelling error and incorrect word, every grammar mistake and punctuation problem gets marked. Even with today’s computer spell checkers you’d be amazed what can slip by. And the internet is full of help.
Sometimes no amount of red ink can save a paragraph, and the only thing to do is delete and try again. Often I’m violating the KISS Rule, or it just doesn’t sound right. Or (in one instance), I discovered a topographical map of an area that showed my description was incorrect.
Highlight the sentences, paragraphs or pages in a color (I usually use pink) and stick a post-it note out the side so you know where your rewrites are. Don’t worry about rewriting them now.
Not everyone speaks in the same voice. Accents, education, and second languages can impact how a character sounds. Ask yourself if a character’s lines actually sound like that character. If you think they don’t, highlight them.
Any story of length should worry about consistency, and a book is a long story indeed. You will have ideas later on you need to go back and prepare for, or notice details about characters that have changed from one chapter to another. Even if you are one of those writers who writes thousands of words of background information before you write your book, you’re going to run into such issues.
Highlight the passages and mark them with post-its. Once you’ve finished your read-through, make a list of the continuity issues. Spend some time planning what corrections and additions you will need to do. I usually use green to mark these, since I can use a green pen to make the changes necessary.
I’m sure that as I continue writing my revision process I will change it to meet the demands of my writing. I’m already prepared to add a ‘Check Your Science’ color when I first write a Science Fiction story. But it is a solid system. I’m interested to know what systems you use, and how you might personalize this system.
Have fun and keep on writing!