I’ve been working on a new YA manuscript for the past few months and that's given me the chance to try out some new revision techniques. This draft came together very differently from my previous first draft, which I wrote over the course of a, um, year.
I wrote this draft in about 30 days during “MayNoWriMo” and I really enjoyed the process. It was so freeing to turn off my inner critic and just get the words down.
But, like everything, fast drafting has its downfalls. And the biggest one for me was trying to remember everything I'd written in that blur of 30 days. It turns out, it's pretty hard to remember every piece of dialogue and description when you're churning out a couple thousand words every day!
So, before I jumped into revising, I decided to take time to visualize the structure of the novel. With my last novel, I outlined my draft on huge sheets of paper. While that was a fun exercise, and decorated my walls for years, it was pretty unwieldy. Definitely no chance of stashing that in my laptop bag before heading to the library!
This time I decided I’d create a note card for each chapter. On the note card, I wrote 1) a brief description of all the major events in that chapter, 2) location of the scene, and 3) which act it was in. Then I went back through and highlighted different sections depending on the content (for instance, blue highlighter for all scenes between the main character and the love interest).
|So many note cards!|
Finally, I laid all of the note cards out on the floor and studied whether the various subplots were evenly distributed, if too many scenes were set in the same place, if the plot structure looked funky (that’s a fancy literary term, btw), etc etc.
|Organized by act (using a 4 act structure here)|
With two inquisitive cats and a VERY inquisitive 4yo, I had to do all my looking in one night and then put the cards away. But I still wanted them available, so I punched a hole in the corner of each card and put them on a ring. That way I could flip through and reread my notes without the fear of 30+ cards getting out of order and/or destroyed.
It was definitely a time-intensive strategy, but I’m glad I did it. If nothing else, just the act of making the cards forced me to think more about the novel. It organized my thoughts and helped my vision before diving back into the novel.
Now I keep the note cards close by while revising and refer back to them whenever I want to check my notes. I might try another technique in the future—possibly Darcy Pattison’s skrunken novel. If I do, I’ll be sure to report back!