Rewriting: The Baby Step Method

Be warned: I know next to nothing about revision. I do line edits (a.k.a. "tweaking") all the time but full-fledged revision has always intimidated the hell out of me. In the case of DragonBorn, it's not so much revision as rewriting. I've read several sources full of great suggestions but nothing seems to scream at me to "Eureka!" I will likely use the advice of many until I discover, develop and refine my own system.

I've decided to try "baby steps" on my debut rewriting venture. I may need to reorganize the order of these steps but for now this is how I anticipate things to unfold.

Baby Step Number One:

Determine whose story it really is. In the rough draft did you end up with the right MC?

This may seem a silly question but I discovered I didn't give the right character enough emphasis or viewpoints in my rough draft. This story truly belongs to Ghislaine, not Danken. Theoretically, knowing this will allow me to refocus the attention where it belongs.

That seems simple enough but the truth is the realization has taken two years to hit me between the eyes. I owe this revelation Ansen Dibell, the author of
Plot (Elements of Writing Fiction). He (I assume Ansen is male) raised this question early on and it actually stopped me cold. I had known for some time that I had made a very huge mistake in Dragonborn and suddenly I could identify the mistake.

Baby Step Number Two:

Do the exercises in Maass's Workbook.

I've tried doing the exercises in the workbook during the developmental stage of a story. Now it's time to use it as the revision tool it was created to be.

Because the first draft focused almostly completely on Danken (the wrong MC), I need to dig deep into who Ghislaine is, what she wants, what she fears, and what she risks. I have general answers to each of these questions but I need so much more than generalities. (In a recent chat I was told my writing is often vague or generalized. The insight was on target and I needed to hear it. Although Gail didn't say it, I realize vagueness is annoying. If I have to be vague in order to keep the reader reading, the story isn't strong enough. It needs work. I'm beginning to suspect this is what the "may want to consider more exposition" comment on the rejection really meant.)

I'm not sure how long this process will take. The workbook is thick and the exercises aren't meant to be breezed through. I'm prepared to spend several weeks or more on this phase of the project.

Baby Step Number Three:

Print and Read the Rough Draft.

Guilty admission: I've never printed the entire manuscript. I'm a miser with my ink and I didn't want to "waste" any on paper I'd likely end up throwing away after I was done with it. Seems like such a waste. Ink is expensive! But no matter which way I turn for advice I hear this again and again: Print it out. Reading it on the computer screen is not condusive to revisions.

Fine. I'll print it.

I probably won't be able to stop myself from grabbing a pen and some sticky notes. I'm not sure it makes sense to do this when you consider I may end up tossing the majority of what is currently written but I know my hypercritical-self won't be able to remain idle while I'm reading this.


Baby Step Number Three:

Compose a new scene outline incorporating the elements disovered
in step 1 & 2.

For each scene state the viewpoint character's goal, the obstacle standing in their way, and list what this scene does for the story as a whole. This may prove more challenging than it sounds. I've never broken my scenes down quite like this.

Baby Step Number Four:
Compare the scene outline to the rough draft and determine what you can keep and what you need to toss.

Being ruthless with the story is difficult for me. It's not that I think of any of it as "my darling" that I just can't bear to delete or restructure. What I see is hours of effort and time being unraveled. The rough draft took time and effort to compose. Undoing that time and effort is rather painful.

I know, I know. Get over it. Such is writing!

Baby Step Number Five:

Begin writing, editing, and restructuring.

Pretty self-explanatory, don't you think?