Sunday, November 16, 2008

The home stretch...Outlining and revising the final draft

I'm at the three quarter pole of my rewrite. The words are flowing effortlessly and frankly, I'm in writing nirvana.
I've spent the last two weeks outlining and rewriting the final chapters.
Since I'm a new writer, I try and seek out as much advice as I can. One of my favorite articles on outlining and revision came through Cheryl Klein's blog, Brooklyn Arden. Anita Nolan's "The End" is only the beginning...a step-by-step guide to refining your manuscript has been very helpful in providing concrete advice. I've been using her methods for a few months now.

One of my favorite sections in her approach is to make a list of scenes (within chapters is fine). Number them and write down how many pages in that scene. The idea is to check and make sure the scenes aren't too skimpy. Too many slight scenes can make a chapter too fragmented. I know I was guilty of this. I had proof!
By going over each scene, counting the number of pages it took up and deciding what plot point it was connected to, my scenes went from choppy to (hopefully) fluid.
This was a good thing.

Another strategy Nolan employs is to make good use of your outline. The first revision should ultimately be done within the outline only.
With it, Nolan suggests the following:
  • add chapter numbers
  • scene numbers
  • a list of plot points you are aiming to achieve
  • starting/ending page numbers
  • characters involved
  • setting
  • time frame
  • number of pages in scene/chapter
  • highlight turning points
It seems like a lot, but it's very helpful. Since my novel takes place during a school year (September to June), adding a time frame to my outline is crucial. I can't tell you how many times during critiques, people asked me for a time reference. I knew this important detail well but hadn't been providing that knowledge for my readers.

The setting became rather important as well. With over 35 scenes in Greenwood Girls, variety keeps my readers interested. My first few drafts used the same settings over and over, until one brave reader asked if I could pick another place to have a particular conversation. I did, and found a spot at Greenwood Academy that no one had seen before. How fun is that!

In particular to my story, I wanted to highlight the scenes containing gymnastics sequences. It's important for me to break these scenes up and balance them throughout the book. I do this all on my computer, using the built-in highlighters to color code characters, settings and plot points.
This type of writing is so different from first draft writing. I know where the story must end, I know how my characters will feel at the end and it's just a matter of taking the reader along for the ride.

On a side note, I've been busy turning my downstairs home office into an electric guitar-jumbo computer-gaming station for the teens in my house. In doing so, I've converted a quiet, never used spot in my bedroom for my new writing retreat. It's glorious and quiet! No more Highway to Hell vibrations clashing with my need for concentration.


  1. Sounds like your revisions are really coming along! Good for you!

  2. Patty,

    I am so impressed with how you have stuck it out with the revisions on Greenwood Girls. You are such an inspiration. And thank you so much for sharing your editing sources. Since I have the attention of a gerbil, I've not quite mastered the editing technique and as we all know it's what gets you published.

    Congrats amiga on the homestretch for what I know has been a long, grueling and at time agonizing process!

    I think I have a girl crush on Anita Nolan, BTW.....

  3. Thanks, Christine! I'm starting t see the light at the end of this very long tunnel!

    Laura, my friend. I kind of like Anita too. She's saved me a heck of a lot of frustration.
    Hope your writing is moving along swiftly!

  4. You have a great writing space! I envy that. I write in my dining room.

    Glad everything is coming together. The list of scenes is a great idea. I'm going to try that. Thanks!

  5. Hi Vivian,
    Yes, it's a great space. Can't believe I never utilized the space before.
    Never hurts to rethink how we do things!

  6. The Anita Nolan book sounds wonderful. I'll have to check that out!

  7. Sherrie,
    It's a great revision article. Everyone has their revision strategies but I think hers is the most sequential.

  8. You all are making me blush!

    Glad you enjoyed the article.


  9. Oh! Thanks Anita. The article was great and so helpful. Thanks for stopping by.


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