Contributed by Linda Wilson
Now that the first draft of the second book in the Abi Wunder Mystery series, Secret in the Mist, is done, I can get to work. As author Michael Crichton has said, “writing is all about rewriting, which can be depressing, especially when after the seventh rewrite you find that’s still not working.” In other words, “books aren’t written, they’re re-written.”
Most helpful is a study of the charts that Kate Messner has created to use in her revision process. Before I studied Messner’s charts, I relied on lists, which is what I’m using for Mist. When I begin the third and last book in the Abi Wunder Mystery series, Secrets of the Heart, I plan to switch over to my own version of Messner’s chart system.
Get the First Draft Down
When I wrote the first book, Secret in the Stars, I spent too much time writing and editing what I wrote, all the way through the manuscript. That process turned out to be extremely inefficient. It made the book take a long time to write. This is what I advise after writing Mist:
• Leave your editor’s cap at the door and write your book straight through without any interruptions.
• Let the draft sit at least five days.
• Do a read-through or general revision, editing for word choice, obvious additions and deletions; in short, anything you see that needs improving.
• Let the draft sit.
Analyze your Story: Make a List
• Get Organized: First on the list is to take stock of ideas that occur to you while writing the first draft. I wish I could say I made a neat list of my ideas. I didn’t. The ideas appeared on whatever paper was available at the time the idea struck. Still, after sifting through the piles of papers in my office, I’m glad I saved them. Examples: Abi hears a faint whistle every time the ghost appears. This “aha” moment came to me while watching a movie on TV and hearing that whistle. I put to use that terrific little scrap of paper.
• Another example is my note: “Keep personal stakes high,” a reminder I had heard at an SCBWI Zoom meeting. I began a revision with this in mind, and that pass turned out to be the second major revision.
Create Arcs for each Character
Making character arcs are not only fun and informative, but necessary. I like to make diagrams with brief descriptions of how the characters have progressed and grown through the story. The example I like to use is the thirty-five pages in Book 1 where the dog Star was missing. It was a noticeable gap, which I filled in. In Book 2, I’ve completed the arc for Angel, an antagonist, who doesn’t appear in Book 3.
List the scenes
It is, of course, important to make sure the scenes are varied and interesting. Also, keeping track of the scenes helps you make sure the story is moving forward and doesn’t contain any “dead” spots. When Chris Eboch, a professional editor and prolific author who happily belongs to my SCBWI-NM chapter, edited Book 1, she came to a lovely chapter near the end about kittens that the two main characters were given.
But, and that’s a big but, the scene didn’t move the story forward. I had to take the entire chapter out, painful as it was after having a professional photographer take my picture with two kittens at a pet store. The good news is that the photo with the kittens is a fun one for my website, and the chapter can be used in my promo materials, hopefully to help touch children’s hearts.
List Plot Points
For this most important analysis, structure becomes important. I learned how to structure my stories in a fiction writing course I took, which followed Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey.”
• Make a diagram of your plot points using Cambpell’s diagram. Make sure your story has the structure it needs.
Check for Accuracy
Any information included in your book can be true or close to the truth. I mention the Alleghany Mountains in both Book 1 and 2, and made sure the setting was oriented correctly with the mountains set to the west. Many parts of both books needed to be researched for authenticity, such as in Book 1, a sheriff’s and deputy’s uniforms, the color of hard hats worn by different types of contractors; and in Book 2, Quakers who moved from Pennsylvania and settled in Loudoun County, Virginia in the 1800s, studied in order to help shape the personality of the ghost.
Release your book to your beta readers and a professional editor only after it is as polished as you can get it, after you’ve gone through your checklist of edits.
This article was first published at: https://www.writersonthemove.com/2021/01/revision-5-tips.html
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Linda Wilson lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She has two daughters, Kim and Tracy, who inspired her stories when they were younger. Linda is the editor of the New Mexico Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators newsletter, and has written posts for the Writers on the Move blog since 2013. She is a classical pianist and loves to go to the gym. But what Linda loves most is to make up stories and connect with her readers. Find out more by visiting Linda’s website at https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com.
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