Hello, happy writers! How’s your summer treating you? Crushing those word counts? I’m still waist-deep in editing my WIP, and while it’s immensely difficult, I am seeing incremental progress — it’ll all come together eventually, right??? Editing a novel can be overwhelming, especially as you try to keep all your notes and your revised plot outline straight in your head. For every decision you make, there are about a thousand alternate routes the scene or chapter could’ve taken, and it’s a lot to wrap your mind around!
In an effort to take control of
my life this process, I’ve created a Revision Binder — a central hub for all of my notes, a way to track my progress, and a handy tool that offers a quick look at my plot, broken down into key moments.
Come on in, I’ll show you what I’m talking about!
1. Goal Sheet
On the very first page of my binder, I’ve printed out a chart to map my revision goals for this summer. I fill in a box for each chapter as I finish my revisions for it.
My plan is to do four passes at my novel:
- First Pass: Plot Consistency. Wherein I slap all my disparate notes together so that the story, while not pretty, at least makes sense and follows my plot outline.
- Second Pass: Word Count. Here, I’ll go line by line and really hack and slash to get each chapter to the length I want it.
- Third Pass: Readability. The third round of edits will involve reading the whole WIP from beginning to end and making notes on anything that glaringly needs to be changed. I’ll color in each chapter as I finish these final edits.
- Final Pass. Hopefully the quickest round of edits, this will be a final read through and last minute polish. By the end of the final pass, I’ll (with any luck) have a story that’s readable, comprehensible, and — hopefully — publishable!
Every writer’s process for editing is going to be different in a million different ways, as each story is unique and has unique demands. But, I will say that breaking down the revision process into quantifiable steps has helped me out a lot. I kept getting overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work I needed to do. (“I need to compile all these revisions into scenes that make sense. It’s not enough that this chapter makes sense, I need it to be about a thousand words shorter. And should I even be working on this chapter? Because this other chapter is all messed up too–and, wait, have I already edited this one? I can’t remember! ARGH!!!”)
It’s virtually impossible to keep in your head everything that you need to do in order to make your story work. For me, it makes more sense to prioritize setting my plot in stone before I tackle hacking the word count or polishing up weak sentences. Giving yourself smaller steps (and deadlines to adhere to) makes the process go infinitely smoother.
2. Overall Plot Outline
Following my productivity map, I have a general chapter-by-chapter outline of my story. I summarize the events of each scene in every chapter, and have notes throughout on the basic plot structure: a description of Act One, for example, or a brief summation of my goal for the Dark Night of the Soul.
This has proved the handiest portion of my binder, and the one I turn back to the most often. Sure, I have my plot outline on my computer, but it’s been really helpful to have a hard copy to reference while working. Having succinct summaries of each chapter on hand has helped keep me focused as well. One of the hardest things about editing is that there are so many options, and you can find yourself diverted and straying too far from your outline. Spontaneity is great and everything, but your plot needs to make sense, so it’s good to have a firm idea of what your chapter needs to accomplish as you sit down to edit.
3. Dividers Breaking the Plot Into Sections
The next section of my Revision Binder is the largest; I’ve got plastic dividers which break my notes into eight of the key moments in a novel’s plot. (Mostly because I had only eight dividers.)
My moments are:
- Comfort Zone & Trigger
- Point of No Return
- The Struggle & Pinch Point
- Midpoint Mirror Moment
- The Charge
- Dark Night of the Soul
You can read more about each of these structural points in my post Plotting In A Pinch: A Guide to Plotting Your Novel.
Within each section I put all my notes and a full breakdown of the chapters in each section of the novel. This is especially helpful, because I can consider each chapter’s larger context in the overall plot and use that to focus my revisions on what’s really important.
4. Extra Folder in the Back
And, finally, I have a fat little folder in the back of my binder for all my loose bits — including an envelope for a power bill that I wrote a potential query on! I bought this six-pocket folder at Staples, and it’s been great. I use it to store hard copies of chapters that I’ve printed out to work on, notes I’ve scribbled on random papers (such as power bills…), and anything else I want to keep close at hand while I’m working. The folder definitely makes my binder heavier than it would’ve been otherwise, but since this binder didn’t come with pockets already, it’s a really useful addition.
So, there you have it, writerly lovelies, my Revision Binder! I mean, I still spend 90% of my Revision time staring blankly at my computer, quietly swallowing down waves of panic … but at least I do so with the illusion of organization, right? And this binder layout doesn’t have to just apply to the revision process — I think it would be immensely helpful for someone keeping their first draft organized, too! Whatever you’re working on, keeping your mountains of notes organized and under control is a really, really good habit to make.
How do you organize your revision notes? Are you drowning in edits as well, or still plugging away at your first draft? Leave a comment below, let’s talk! If you have a writing binder, or you decide to make your own based on this post, send me a picture, I’d love to see it!! You can leave a comment here, or @ me on twitter (chuffwrites) and instagram (yellowhairedrobot).
Happy writing. : )