One Pass Manuscript Revision

     In the last post I wrote about a comment given by author Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez about journaling. She mentioned that when she writes in longhand she gets in touch with deeper emotions. I tried this and  ‘journaled’ the first two chapters of my MS, made some revisions and took those chapters to a critique group of twelve women. In short, I got the thumbs up in the area of emotions and interior monologue. Now I need to go through 38 more chapters and I hunted around sites to help ease the pain of revisions.


     But before I get to that I have to say that reading a few books about writing are necessary to make your revisions easier. That is don’t make ‘hack’ mistakes that many novice writers make while they write their first MS, or you’ll have more to cut-(Guilty). There are many books on writing but if I could only chose one I’d say the most helpful for novices (non MFA’s or English Lit majors) was: “Sol Stein on Writing by Sol Stein”. For revisions I’d chose these two:”Self -Editing,” by Renni Brown and “Manuscript Revision,” by Elizabeth Lyon.


     There are several ways to tackle revisions but I decided to chose one method and stick to it. The one that made sense and lured me in with its title, “One Pass Manuscript Revision,” is discussed on http://www.hollylise.com. The first draft of your novel is finished. Now, according to the recommendations of any number of writing books, pundits, and writers who go through this themselves, you’re in for five or ten or more rounds of revision, in which you’ll polish your work until it is a gleaming, perfect pearl … and in which process you’ll dither for months or years.You can do that if you want. But you don’t have to…” Years to revise? No, I’d rather write some more than spend years revising. 

      There is a supply list to gather first. If you can’t find these around the house head down to the Dollar or 99 cents Store to buy:  cheap spiral bound 8 1/2 by 11 inch notebook (NO Justin Beiber, unless you’re revising a YA book), two smooth writing pens (I like Pentel RSVP, nice cushion for your finger). Find good lighting and a table with enough room to stack your printed out MS in 3 piles with the spiral notebook next to it. I’d also add a water container, coffee, or other non-alcoholic beverage (you want to finish the MS not add a bottle to the recycle bin). And last and important, find your nerves of steel or ganas.


     Now open your notebook and write down:
1-Theme of your novel in 15 words or less: i.e. Love conquers evil, transformation, relationships, or any of the other several universal themes.
2-Subthemes
3-What is your book about in 25 words or less
4-A one line story arc for the books main character (the Protaganist).
5-The main characters and one paragraph of 250 words or less describing the story. Think of it like a blurb on the back of a book jacket.
6-Your word count: Adult novels fall in the 90,000 range while Young Adult falls in the 60-80,000 range.


     If you can’t do the above you can’t revise until you get these mandatory elements down. These will guide you on your ‘slash and burn’ expedition, which is the hard work. You can find the rest of Holly Lisle’s article at the website above. It’s a little too long to summarize and I could use that time to write some more. I’ll post my comments on Ms. Lisle’s method next week when I begin the process. Until then, write on. 





Categories: Holly Lisle, One Pass Manuscript revision, Renni Brown, Revision, Sol Stein, Writing

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