I spent a month poring over my manuscript to add and edit in July, but what I should have been doing is revising. I was focusing too much on the line-by-line edits of grammar and odd sentences. Instead, my time would have been better spent re-reading the manuscript and realizing what pieces were missing so I could prepare for what I’m doing now.
In my last post, I promised I would show my index cards of my scenes. I started writing out my scenes from my novel and realized that I was dealing with a mess of a manuscript. It wasn’t anything like I’d envisioned. I won’t need the index cards quite yet.
What I’m doing now is a total rewrite. I took notes on what needed to change and then set the initial draft aside and outlined my new version of the novel, not looking at the old manuscript again.
Before I started outlining, I did a mind-map, which I’ve shown below.
This is somewhat of a free-form outline that allowed me to step outside of my head, outside the lines of pages. I bought a large floor drawing pad and pulled out my markers, crayons and colored pencils.
Mind-maps can work for you however you want them to. My goal was to allow myself to think of ideas out of order. A standard outline usually requires you to go from point A to B, to C. With a mind-map, it allowed me to brainstorm point F and several of the sub-points, then move back to point C, and eventually end up at point A.
I start in the middle with my broad idea. In this case the broad idea is the novel story arc. A series story arc is another mind-map. As you can see above, I then moved outward from the broad idea with five larger scenes I knew I needed to move the plot along.
From there, I branched off with all of the ideas of what those larger scenes or acts included and any random ideas I wanted to add. You can go off in any direction you like and in any order.
A mind-map was my first step to creating a more formal outline. When I started my first draft, I was a sworn pantser. Now, I see the value in an outline, and I’ve discovered a way that allows me to have a pantser feel with the mind-map, but organize it the way a plotter would.
Below is my outline. As you can see, I took my sub-points branching off from my handful of larger scenes and created individual scenes. The individual scenes usually mean a chapter, but some scenes could combine into one chapter. I average about 2000 words per chapter, which is a comfortable length for most readers.
As you can see, it still doesn’t look traditional. It doesn’t mimic the outlines you were forced to create in high school for an essay project. Mine is more of a summarized list of general ideas in the order I want them to happen. But, even during the outline process I let the scenes be fluid and I moved some around as I wrote.
I’ve begun my rewrite, though I’ve only managed the first two chapters in what I anticipate to be approximately 50 chapters or about 100,000 words. My goal is to finish the rewrite in the next month, but that might be a bit aggressive. I’m eager to keep the ball rolling and finish so I can get the manuscript out to my beta readers, but I know that’s further in the future.
I feel like I’ve taken much longer than needed to do my outline, and I’ve spent too much time perfecting it when I should have been writing instead of procrastinating. Here I am, writing this blog post, procrastinating again. Even though I have a plan, it’s a daunting one.
I’m enjoying the whole process of revising. I have had so many unexpected ideas surrounding this novel that it has grown too big to fit in one book, and my goal is to expand it out to a seven book series to give all of my characters some page time. I’ve also developed vague outlines for a four book series I want to start for NaNoWriMo this year.
While some people may dread the revision process, I have to say that so far it has been enlightening and enchanting. I’m sure a day will come when I’m sick of looking at my story, and I hate it from editing it so much, but maybe that will be my sign I need to release it into the world.
Do you have any unusual methods of revising you’ve discovered?