A Pantser Turned Plotter Learns to Love Revising
I believe I’m a born pantser (for those who are new to the term, that means someone who jumps in and starts writing by the “seat of the pants”). The first few books I wrote, I did very little planning. After about two manuscripts, I learned about GMC from Deb Dixon and did a chart before beginning. I thought some about my characters. I knew their backgrounds, even wrote a little bit of a journal in each character’s point of view (POV). But I didn’t automatically plot. I didn’t naturally feel the need to plan scenes or plot points.
But after the first couple of manuscripts got critiqued in my critique group, I realized how much work would be involved to fix those manuscripts. And I did NOT want to do that. I dreaded it. I avoided it. I sometimes went for months at a time without writing, partly because all the fun of discovery was gone. But, mainly, because the task seemed so overwhelming.
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So I finally decided two things:
1) I would not get something critiqued until I had written at least half of the first draft, preferably the full first draft.
2) I would become a plotter.
From that moment, I became The Chart Queen. I love my charts! I love all the different methods I use for planning. And I also found doing this has helped me write a synopsis as a selling tool (it’s tough to write one before you’ve written the book). Using all these tools helped make the first drafts better. I didn’t have so many big picture issues to fix. I could focus on cleaning up manuscripts, fine tuning them.
But I still dreaded that part. Once I completed a manuscript, I was sick of it. I didn’t want to go back and keep re-working it. I couldn’t believe it when people told me they dreaded the first draft and loved revising once it was done.
WHAT IN THE WORLD??!! Who wouldn’t love the fun first draft? Who could ever enjoy revising??
Well, 6 books after leaving the island, I finally find myself looking forward to revising that first draft. Yes, Missy Tippens has just said the unthinkable.
I’m excited because now I get to go back and make it better. I get to play with ideas I’ve had during the writing and get go back to work them in (things that will make my theme stronger, things that will show character growth better, scenes that will show stronger characters acting toward their goals).
If I can learn to love revising, you can too. Here are some suggestions:
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**First and foremost: Think of revising as time to put the icing on the cake. Time to perfect your story. I’ve found a change of attitude can work wonders. You are no longer allowed to think of revising as TORTURE. :) Think of it as your best writing tool. (Again, if I can do this, anyone can.)
**Work through your choice of plotting charts/programs/books. You’ll come up with new ideas to add and enhance. If you’re a plotter, you may do this before you start. I suggest doing it again afterward to add depth. If you’re a pantser, you’ll probably only do this after you finish. I’ve also found this helpful while writing the draft.
On my current manuscript, I got stuck about a third of the way into the story. I found I had already written what, according to my synopsis, was supposed to be the mid-point. I was bored with the story and couldn’t figure out why. About that time, I heard someone recommend James Scott Bell’s Knockout Novel program (click here to check it out), so I bought it and took a week to work through it. I LOVED it. I found a new direction to go with the story (added a new character and plotline) and also found many ways to add to the scenes I already had written or planned (that enhanced theme and characterization). I came up with concrete ideas that were easy to incorporate into the story. Now that I’m re-reading my completed manuscript, I’m going back to make sure I’ve added everything.
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**Put on your editor hat. Become Super Editor!
This has been one of the hardest lessons for me since I left the island. I was stuck in Author World, the world of creativity, discovery, fun. But when it comes to revising, you need to set that aside and read your story objectively. Try to read it as if it’s the first time you’ve seen it. I know this is difficult, but if you can set it aside for a few days or even weeks, it’ll make the job much easier.
Even if you don’t have time to set the manuscript aside, try to read it like a fresh reader. And be tough on yourself. No mercy. Ask:
Is this exciting? Is it un-put-downable? Or am I falling asleep? (That is not a joke! I’ve fallen asleep reading my draft before. Hard to admit but true.)
Do I care about these characters, really care? Or could I shut the book and not give them another thought? Worse, do I want to smack them for being TSTL (too stupid to live)?
Does the story feel as if it’s moving toward some big bang of a conclusion? Am I worried about how it will turn out? Or do I feel as if I’m gently walking through town without a care in the world, enjoying cute scene after cute scene (recognize episodic writing?)?
Is the conflict escalating? Or are the hero and heroine rehashing the same things scene after scene? (Sticky notes help here! Mark the progression of the conflict as you read, noting how it has changed. Do this for external, internal and romantic conflict.)
Is each scene set clearly and am I anchored? Can I envision the details of the setting and the characters—without them being over-done?
Does the story feel as if it’s gone full circle? Is the ending satisfying? Did the characters resolve the story the best way possible for these particular characters (facing their worst fear)? Does the ending fit with the theme/premise to make it shine?
So… Change the attitude, enhance your story by revisiting/working through your favorite how-to programs or books, and ask the tough Super Editor questions. Then you’ll be on the way to making your book the best it can be.
Don’t forget to visit the giveaway page for details on our birthday celebration! Easy peasy commenting gives you entries for the iPad mini and the weekly prizes. Here's this week:
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And I’m offering another prize today! I’ve had so much fun doing the phone chats that I’ve decided to offer a Mentoring Package that will include phone chat, email and first-chapter critique. Details will be given to the winner. You must let me know if you want to be entered by stating so in the comments. I'm looking forward to working with one of you!
So the big question now… Are you ready to love revising? :)
Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, is the author of six books for Love Inspired and nominated for a Romance Writers of America 2013 RITA® Award. Her most recent from Love Inspired, Georgia Sweethearts was an April 2013 release. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.com, @MissyTippens on Twitter and