Revision is the heart of writing. —Patricia Reilly Giff
When are you done with a first draft?
Personally, I’m never done with a draft until I’ve edited that draft. That means going through it to check the story, pacing, continuity, clarity, flow, grammar, and more. I’ll fix everything and only then send if off to a trusted reader or two.
I don’t consider that step a “revision”. That editorial work is merely to get the story to a place at which it can be revised.
Because once the work comes back from the reader(s), it’s time to begin the next draft, and the real revision. The trick about revision is to truly attempt to see your work anew, to employ a new vision. The reason it’s so helpful to have readers is that they—by definition—read the story with fresh eyes.
Their glance reveals new problems and new opportunities.
This is often the moment at which we see that the story that we have so careful put together is boring in parts, or confusing, or redundant. And that’s when it becomes important to re-think the order and content of your scenes.
Bookflow was invaluable as I worked on my latest novel, because the revision required cutting an entire character and her subplot. The outlining feature, in which I can easily drag and drop scenes into a new order and add a virtual sticky note in a place that needs a new one, was essential. Some writers achieve the same effect with index cards or by cutting up their manuscripts.
A new format helps us as we attempt to see the story in a new way.
I often teach workshops on outlining, and I always point out that outlines are essential for revising. If you have trouble brainstorming into an outline and prefer to write a discovery draft, that’s fine! But if you despair over what to do with that draft, try transforming it into an outline.
The broad strokes of your story will reveal themselves.