Three Stages of Revisions

06 Dec

Revisions are necessary. Okay, there may be the
extraterrestrial out there who writes the perfect first draft, but for the rest
of us mortals revisions are a way of life. My process involves a lot of whining,
and friends, and whimpering. I do have a system of sorts. When I type that last
line of my manuscript, I know I’m going to be living with it for weeks, if not
months, to come.

Whining phase. I don’t
what to do this.
Read as if I were two and didn’t want to take a nap.

I take a sort of a big, bigger, biggest and OMG approach.
Oh, and I do it in reverse just to make things more confusing.

The OMG first. These are the things that if they don’t hold
together, the book is headed for the recycle bin. These are what I call the
stupid’s. The clues, threads and characters I let drop. With mysteries, I have
to be sure I played fair with my readers. Do all the clues fall into place? Are
they clear enough, but not too obvious (delicate balance here), and are the red
herrings scattered around enough to mislead?

Next comes the biggest stuff. Characters. Not the main ones
so much as the secondary’s and walk-on’s. For first names, I have an inclination
to latch on to a letter and have all my character’s names begin with that letter.
Those pesky little devils all cry out to have their names, start with “M” or
“D”. Those seem to be my favorites. As I’m checking on their names, I make sure
they’re consistent throughout the scene. Since I have four, four-footed beasts
that routinely want something, I have a tendency to be distracted. And right
now they’re not the only ones pulling at me for something. But, as they say,
that’s another blog. With all the interruptions, things tend to wander, my
brain, the characters, what happens next…you get the idea.

The bigger stuff. Here we are back to the bookmarks. My
reasoning is, if it was important enough to bookmark, I probably should have a
second look at it. In this pass, I find all sorts of things that have
completely slipped through the cracks. When they’re fixed—and this can take
some time because I may have to go back to the OMG phase and re-think some of
those to be sure they still hold together.

Things are counting down and I’m at the big phase. Now you
think what could possibly be left? Well, it isn’t anything small. It’s the
words. Yes, indeed, those troublesome communication thingies. This is where I
actually wear off the printed on characters from the “control” key and the “F”
key. We all have favorite words. Mine are: really, suddenly, that, and very.
It’s really very helpful to identify your
over-used words. As I go through I remind myself that can almost always be deleted. The rest of my over-used words
may take a little more work.

With all that work behind me, I’m at the my friends stage. I have one read a
section, I make changes, then I have another read the changes. My last reader
is a mystery suspense writer too. She’s the one (and she knows who she is) who
finds all the really-X-wouldn’t-do-that kind of things.

With all these steps behind me, am I ready to send it off?
Nope. Now I have to deal with the mental baggage, but again, that’s another


Posted by on December 6, 2011 in writing, writing craft



12 responses to “Three Stages of Revisions

  1. johannaharness

    December 6, 2011 at 5:15 AM

    How funny. I just scheduled a post on revision for tomorrow. Okay, so two weeks from now, what do we write on? 🙂

    There really are so many different approaches and so many levels of work.

    • Peggy Staggs

      December 6, 2011 at 9:58 AM

      I know. I’m a firm believer that no two writers ever use the same process for anything.

  2. ramblingsfromtheleft

    December 6, 2011 at 6:08 AM

    This is so true, Peggy. The one thing we can count on when we embark on this writerly-life is that we have a great deal of hard work ahead and much of it is not the romantic vision of the inspired muse pondering the nature of the universe.

    The hardest part is the rewrite, revision, edit, rewrite again, edit again, find good readers who don’t coddle us, but who are honest and tear our drafts apart … then more rewrites and edits.

    I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted 🙂

    • Peggy Staggs

      December 6, 2011 at 10:00 AM

      The whole process is amazing. I have those moments when I think, The whole story would be so much better if I only… That’s what get me into trouble.

  3. Liz Fredericks

    December 6, 2011 at 6:56 AM

    I know I’m going to be booed on this, but I like revisions. In fact, I like them so much I spend time I should be writing new material fussing with a paragraph here or word there. I do like, and plan to use, the phased approach you outline. I laughed when I read Johanna’s comment . . . can’t count the number of times Meredith and I have been on the same wavelength. I think this is good and can’t wait to read more about revision tomorrow. As Ramblings so aptly noted, one of our most important efforts is finding the right partners to read our work. And, by the way, I’m loving ‘writerly life’! Now, I’m off to my mister-less, writerly life. 😉

    • Peggy Staggs

      December 6, 2011 at 10:03 AM

      Ah, a kindred spirit. I love rewrites to the same point. I’ve got to get back to writing (now that we’re pretty much settled into the new joint.) My goal is to wright new in the mroning and revise in the afternoon. I know the best laid plans…

  4. Meredith Conner

    December 6, 2011 at 8:16 AM

    I usually end up with a host of sticky notes littered around my desk as I begin revisions – little thoughts that strike me the I need to check on as the story progresses. It’s a messy process for me 🙂

    • Peggy Staggs

      December 6, 2011 at 10:06 AM

      A messy process is the sign of a brilliant mind. I’ve read your stuff and it’s great. I just got a magnetic white board. This means I can attach all those random notes to the board too. Oh, look something sparkly. ; )

  5. Jennifer Kellie

    December 6, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one that suffers from “letter attachment” when it comes to naming my characters. J & A are my favorites 🙂

  6. Mary Vine

    December 6, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    I’m taking quite a while on the last name for my hero, but I think I’ve got it now. I really try to name some of the characters after friends and family. They really like finding their names in there. I think each of my published books have my dad’s name in there, either John or Johnny. Now I have a grandson named Johnny, which makes it even better.

  7. Lynn Mapp

    December 6, 2011 at 6:45 PM

    Revisions? Whom kneads stinin re-vis-ions?

  8. Clarissa Southwick

    December 7, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    As usual, I’m late to comment, but I’m really like hearing about your revision process. Sometimes it seems so overwhelming, anything we can do to break it down into steps helps.


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