writing fu

(written 12.06.05, 5pm): This is how I revise.

My directory structure’s usually set up like this:
Series Directory
  Book Title (original files in here)
     2nd draft
     3rd draft

Once the original drafts are done and I’m going into revisions, I take the latest draft and copy it into a new directory. If, like with HoS, I’ve done *lots* of revisions already, the old directory usually gets renamed to define what the biggest change I made in that pass was–in this case, it’s been renamed “Revisions for Structure”. The new directory is “Revisions for Sensuality”.

Typically I name my files “booktitle01, booktitle02,” with the book titles being nothing more than the initials I refer to them by. HEART OF STONE, therefore, is hos01, hos02, etc.

I open up hos01, then copy it to hos01_revised and keep both files open, side by side. I turn off Word’s page-matching scroll, because as I add and subtract words it only becomes irritating to have the old file page lurching around, and if I have to scroll in it to cut something to paste back into the new file, I lose my place in the new file if the page match (which I have now typed as ‘patch’ twice; if it happens again I’ll just start calling it patching!) is turned on.

I open up any other files I need–in this case, a page of notes, and the original scene I rewrote for Luna to demonstrate I could up the sensuality quotient in the book. They’re both references, the notes file for things I want to do in the book, the scene so I can remember how I managed to write that stuff. In time, I won’t need the scene as much, as I get back into the style, but for now, I actively need the reminder.

At some point, I make a new file for the complete manuscript. If I’m smart, which I never am, I don’t combine all the chapters into that new file until I’m actually satisfied with the state of the book. Usually what happens is about 2/3rds of the way through I feel a burning need to see what I’ve accomplished all in one lump, and put it together. More or less inevitably, I then make major revisions to at least a couple of chapters and end up spending a lot of time muttering and swearing and flipping things back and forth trying to make sure I’ve got clean, up to date copies of everything in the right places.

I also open up my wordcount file. For revisions, it always looks something like this:

ch 1 original: (original chapter wordcount)
ch 1 rewrites: (revised chapter wordcount)
ch 1 new words: (+ or – how many words)

Further down the page I keep track of the chapter, chapter wordcount, chapter pages, total pages and total wordcount so far in the book:

ch 7: 3700, 15, 100, 22503
ch 8: 3122, 14, 114, 25625
ch 9: 3266, 15, 129, 28891

This usually ends up off by a thousand or two words and a few pages from the actual manuscript, but it’s close enough for me to know generally where I am versus where I need to be.

I use wordpad for my wordcounts, because it’s a separate window and I can get to it without digging through Word. I name the wordcount files things like hos_rewrites_wordcount, because I used to just name them wordcount and then discovered if you have six files called ‘wordcount’ you have to go through all of them to find the book you’re working on. :) The first lines in the files tend to say things like, “HoS rewrites (again)”, or “(yet again)”, or “(once more, with feeling)”.

(We are, for the record, on “yet again” with this bout of revisions; the next one will be OMWF. I don’t know what comes after that; I’ve never revised a book this many times.)

I open up a calculator so I can keep track of how many new words total I’ve got written that day, but usually I forget and close it several times, which always annoys me. Still, it’s apparently part of the ritual. :)

These days, I’m turning on Bon Jovi to write to. My playlist is called “All Bon Jovi, All The Time”, and is missing Blaze of Glory, because I screwed up ripping it somehow, and Keep the Faith, because for some extremely unlikely reason I don’t own it on CD. I’m also missing the self-titled Bon Jovi album, and they might’ve released one more before that way back in the pretty early eighties that I don’t know about. Still, it’s a lot of Bon Jovi.

(I may be adjusting to this new writing to music thing, which I’m not actually that keen on most of the time. It does, however, drown out any background noise, which can be very helpful.)

Having got everything in place, I then spend the next several hours alternately typing, clutching my head, staring vacantly into space, swearing, and–this, most importantly–taking enourmously deep breaths and letting them out through my teeth in a very loud “TCHHHHH” of a sigh.

This is the sound of revision. It is the sound of trying to hold not one, but *two* entire books together in my head: the one I have already written, and the one I am revising it into. I must remember where things were, where they are now, where they should be, and while I’m doing all that, develop a flow and language consistent to the entire piece.

The good news is that while I’m doing this, I will come across unexpected bits of story that will make me laugh, make me wince, make me gasp, and make me feel that all the work I’m doing is going to be worth it, in the end. I will find places where a tweak to a word or two–or a complete hack and revise of an entire scene–will leave me triumphant with the knowledge I’ve improved something dramatically, and that its effect is now what I want it to be. I hope I’m going to find those more often than I find the parts that make me swear, but I won’t, and I certainly won’t find more of them than I go TSCHHHH over.

But finally I’ll get to the last scene, the last sentence, and there’ll be a little burst of glee behind my breastbone because damn I like that, and then it’ll be done.

We’re a long way out from that yet, baby. :)

(Just thought people might be interested in the bones of how revision happens for me. :))


  1. Huh. Interesting. Since I use WordPerfect and write out of sequence, I do it a little differently.

    I DO do a series title (Exotic Summoning) and heroine’s name, since I originally set them up to be alphabetical.

    Then I do a chron file (chapters) and a non-chron file (scenes).

    Sometime the first 1/3 of the book, I do a Master file (which I understand is much easier in WP than Word). When I finish the book, I set up a Working file — which will hold Roughs, Copy Edits, ARCs. When I’m done with a revision, it goes in a HOLDING files along with a bunch of other stuff…

    Yes, different, but the same. Glad you’re back online.


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