Saturday, October 22, 2011

Quantifying Revisions

I was just talking to a writer who has participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for two years running, generating a 50,000-word novel each time during the month of November. I asked her if she was planning to do it again this year, and she said she's inclining toward spending that month this time around revising one of her previous novels. The only problem is that it's so motivating to be counting up words toward the 50,000 word NaNoWriMo total and there doesn't seem to be anything comparably satisfying along quantitative lines for revision.

So I started thinking about how I quantify revision for myself, as I'm also someone who adores meeting visible/tangible goals and crossing them off my to-do list.

For revision I have two quantitative ways I proceed. One is to quantify revision in terms of time spent. I tell myself that I have to revise this book for ten hours, say, and then cross off each one.

The other approach relies on my having comments given to me by my writing group or my editor. There I assemble a huge master manuscript made up of every page with writing group or editorial comments, removing every page with no comments. My revision task is then to go through the master manuscript and deal with 50 comments, or 30, or whatever. I usually keep track by removing the pages from the pile as I have dealt with the comments on that page.

In the beginning I can make amazing progress, as many of the comments are just marked typos or other tiny things. So on my first pass through the manuscript I might get rid of 50 pages. But then come the hard things: Does Sierra express too much anger toward Ms. Lin too soon? The three pages that have comments related to this one issue might take hours to revise.

But I do get to count. And counting definitely motivates, at least for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment