Friday, December 11, 2009

Kickin' It, Revision Style

As noted previously, I'm revising my YA with the aim of querying in January. It's in pretty decent shape, but unlike my first foray into the publishing world I'm actually going to try to make this book good before sending it out to be ridiculed, derisively guffawed at, and urinated on by soul-devouring literary agents.

Kidding. Mostly.

Anyway, here's a revision method I've tried. I've included pictures for those who don't like words. As always, you can enlarge the pictures by clicking on them.


These are index cards on which I've written a word of two for each scene of the book. I wrote this part in black and then I put them in order. I like the index cards because they're more flexible than a list. I can move the index cards around and imagine how a scene might fit somewhere other than where I have it. For some reason, a list seems more permanent.

The next thing I did was make note of my main character's emotional arcs. He has two, although they are closely related. First, my main character, who's a seventeen-year-old guy, has low self-esteem, avoids conflict, and doesn't really go after what he wants. He knows this and wants to change. Using a red pen, I took each card, thought of the scene, and wrote down a few words indicating where on this arc he falls. In the beginning, he's a timid pussbag. As the story progresses, he dabbles in boldness, challenges his father, and actually makes a few moves on a girl. At the end, he's found at least a little of the self-confidence he's always wanted. Marking the cards in this way allowed me to see which scenes contributed to that arc and which didn't.

To keep this short, I did the same thing with the other emotional arc using a blue pen. That arc represents his changing views on what he wants to get out of his relationships with girls. Briefly, in the beginning, he wants to make whoopie, and in the end he also wants to make whoopie but with someone he loves. Or at least really really likes.

Here's a blurry close-up:
I then went back and noted things I needed to either add or double-check so that each scene contributes something. My next step will be to play the role of annoying literary critic. Basically, I ask myself a lot of questions like, "Why'd you start the story there, huh?" and "What's the significance of that scene?" and "How exactly does this scene move the story forward, you moron?" You know, fun stuff like that.

15 comments:

Monica said...

nice style, there, PMM. i like that technique.

Tina Lee said...

I like the idea of looking at the scenes laid out that way on the floor. It makes a book seem smaller and more manageable. I think visual methods always help change things up. Good work.

Lily Cate said...

Wow, I'm doing almost exactly the same thing with my YA revisions. Covered the entire coffee table with note cards, had them all in order, stacked and neatly organized, and then picked up the laptop and spilled them on the floor.
Really.

Tracy Edward Wymer said...

I'm doing the same, only in Scrivener, which has a Corkboard feature with index cards. It is very helpful.

Also - Linda Sue Park brought up a great point about summarizing each scene (not chapter) into one sentence. I write that one sentence on the index card. Really makes you focus when writing that scene.

Great techniques. Thanks for sharing! Love the emotional arc element that you're focusing on. That will make quite a difference.

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MG Higgins said...

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Great revision technique, BTW.

Anita said...

Hee-hee! I can't remember ever having one of these spammers on my blog. I wonder if they're willing to start following you. That might be cool.

Your writing technique seems really great. I have no technique. After I'm done with the manuscript and ask you to read it, you can let me know if you think I need a technique (assuming you say yes about reading it).

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i was just wondering what i could do to acheive high yields.

Paul Michael Murphy said...

I didn't have a technique either, but I read about this one and it seemed kind of useful. Mostly, I'm trying to make sure my scenes have some sort of significance to the overall story. And if they don't, I'm changing and adding stuff until they do.

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I kinda like "funny sum"...maybe these guys are helping our writing. Or maybe you should go back to the word verifications???

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i would totally go back to word verification, dude.

The Wife said...

So... no one noticed the inappropriately positioned stuffed animals in the picture? You guys are slipping.