Are you an aspiring or established author? Are you looking for tips and tools to make revisions easier and more thorough? Welcome to my inaugural Author Toolbox article about revision and editing tools and processes that I am using to get my novel ready for publication.
This article is part of the incomparable Raimey Gallant’s Author Toolbox Bloghop. The bloghop was announced on my birthday and just before the April 2017 Camp NaNoWriMo. How could I resist?
I’m in the midst of what I hope to be the last round of editing my novel The Gideon Effect. As I went through the story again for the umpteenth time last fall, it saddened me to find plot holes that I’d identified before, or that my very first rough outline addressed. Despite finding them at least once, I somehow didn’t fill them, didn’t write them, and missed them over and over again.
“Obviously, I’m a terrible editor,” I thought last year after I tackled the revision and edit of this novel yet again. But, I’ve learned from beta reading and proofreading other writers’ work that I’m actually a decent editor of someone else’s writing.
So, what went wrong? And, how do I correct it now? And, how do I prevent such a long and disorganized editing process in other stories hereafter?
I have found a combination of tools that together are at least a partial solution, and possibly a full one. In my recent article about how to complete a Camp NaNoWriMo project, I touched on one of the tools I’m trying this time — a scene list. I’m using the spreadsheet template that Monica M. Clarke describes in her blog article here. I’m also tracking my editing plans and progress in Scrivener (a specialized word processing application for large writing projects). This dual process involves some duplicate effort. As I work on a new section of the story, I am breaking up chapter-sized chunks into scenes, putting the relevant details about each scene in the scene list spreadsheet. I record new scene ideas with an estimated word count in the spreadsheet and create an empty file folder for the scene in Scrivener.
The corkboard view in Scrivener, with color coding for the unwritten scenes, doesn’t give me quite as much information at a glance about the planned scene as the spreadsheet does. But, I’m not sure if the extra information is actually necessary for my editing work. I’m keeping up both processes so I can evaluate their relative merits after this edit.
Scrivener has been a much easier platform for making edits than Microsoft Word is. I’ve been using Scrivener for a little over a year, and have imported two novels originally written in Word into Scrivener. And, during NaNoWriMo 2016, I wrote a first draft novel in Scrivener for the first time. It was a completely natural-feeling process to break the new novel down into individual scenes as I wrote it. But, my first novels had been written in one huge draft. I’d broken the stories into semi-arbitrary chapters as I wrote them, and that’s how they were broken down by Scrivener when I imported them. Breaking them further down into scenes now that they live in Scrivener was a non-trivial exercise, but going through that process did give me a good overview of how the story flows and helped me pinpoint where the plot holes could best be filled, and where the missing scenes belong.
The scene names are for my convenience. They won’t be part of the final manuscript. I’ve customized the default labels for this project. Green indicates a revised scene. Blue indicates a scene I’m adding but haven’t written yet. Yellow indicates a scene I haven’t finished revising.
My advice to writers who are converting a story from a more traditional word processor to Scrivener is this: Take the time to break your story into individual scenes when you import it. Having the story broken down to that level of granularity will make the revision and editing processes much easier.
In a few weeks, I’ll be ready to compare and contrast the pros and cons of the Scrivener corkboard versus a scene list spreadsheet. My current impression is that the corkboard alone would work fine for this editing project. But, I have more work to do and some of the more involved revising lies ahead. Stay tuned for the final report!
What tools have you found most useful for organizing your revisions and edits? What is most difficult about the process to you? Do you plan to approach editing differently the next time you do it?
For more great articles on tools for authors check out Raimey’s Author Toolbox Bloghop post.