Lessons I’ve Learned about Revisions

Coming to the end of my revisions of the middle book in the Lya Darkwood trilogy (sometimes referred to here a LD2), I’ve realized that I’ve learned a lot of lessons about revising. Given that this writing-based blog hasn’t had too many posts about writing lately, I figured I would share them here.

1. Beware the Replace All Function– Oh “Replace All.” What a mighty and terrible weapon you are. Find All/Replace All (or whatever equivalent it’s known by in your word processing software) allows you to locate a specific set or words in your document, then replace them all with other words. This only works if you do it right, or so I learned upon deciding that I wanted to rename a specific section of my city the “Borderlands.” Only I forgot to type this into the replace all box. Now there’s a blank space whenever the Borderlands are mentioned. Ugh.

2. No Matter How Many Times You Read Over Something, You’re Going to Miss Mistakes- I tend to spend a lot of time revising the beginning of my book. Certain paragraphs can take hours of work. But even knowing the time I have spent on these paragraphs, I still come back and find little mistakes. Typos. Missing quotation marks. Misplaced commas. Words that have been incorrectly spell checked (burred instead of buried was today’s find). This really draws attention to how much you need a second set of fresh eyes (if not a third and fourth) to look over your completed draft. You’re simply not going to find all of these problems.

3. The Exciting Bits are The Hardest to Revise– Fight Scenes. Arguments. Big emotional revelations. Sometimes I get caught up in my own stuff, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, this is the last place I want someone to be pulled out of the narrative due to a grammatical error. This makes revising those parts very tricky.

4. It’s Impossible to be 100% Confident About a Draft- Although I don’t have exact figures, I’ve probably spent about 150 hours revising LD2 this year. The transformation it has gone through, from an oftentimes illogical rough draft, to a far smoother second draft, is damn obvious. Still, despite all of the work I’ve put in, and how confident I am about my changes, there are times when I wonder “does this really work?” Again, this is where first readers are important. You need someone that will say “This doesn’t make sense” when the book calls for it.

5. Back It Up- At least once a week. Seriously. Spend hours meticulously fixing a specific scene? You will be crying if you end up losing it. So put it on a flash drive, send it to yourself in an e-mail or upload it on a cloud based service. Back it up!

So those are some things I’ve learned. Can’t wait until I finish this draft!

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4 thoughts on “Lessons I’ve Learned about Revisions

  1. 1) Another problem with “replace all” is if you replace a word that also happens to be part of a bigger word? You get funky words in the end. I always use replace and click next so I can see EXACTLY what I’m replacing each time.

    5) Shiiiit…. back up hourly, if possible. I use Apple’s Time Machine, which is automatic, and something of a life saver. 🙂

      • Yep. When you use “Replace All” it just DOES IT for you, without you seeing the results until you’re going through line-by-line. I heard a few horror stories at grad school, so I committed that rule to memory! 🙂

  2. Yes, beware the replace all. You can teach it to be more specific, though. For instance, I decided to change a character’s name. That’s a lot of replaces. Her name was Ash. If you just put in Ash, it will find Ash, the word ash, and bashfully, mash, and all other words with ash. You can make it find the exact word, including capitalization. Also, I started making it look for Ash and a space so I didn’t get the cashing, bashing, etc. Still good to do the individual find and replace, though. Also, I’d second the automatic back up services. If you’re not an Apple person, try Google Drive. Every time I save my Word document, it automatically syncs with the copy on Google Drive.

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