Tame Your Revision Step-by-Step: 4 Steps to SORT-BY-SIZE

Infographic of 7 revision management tips battery icons

This post is part of a TAME YOUR REVISION series that started over at The Winged Pen. You can read the overview, find the links to all the posts, and download the infographic here.

As always, feel free to share your best revision strategies in the comments! I’d love to know how you manage.

SORT BY SIZE

  1. Read Rachel Aaron’s 2K to 10K: How to write faster, write better, and write more of what you love. It costs 99 cents and is one of the most useful things I’ve read about how to work smarter. Here’s her post on editing.

Note: Rachel’s a writer–not a marketer–and creativity researchers have followed up on her work because it’s smart. I have no connection to her. I just like her work.

Don’t have 99 cents this month? Read her excellent blog post about drafting more efficiently here. The graphic below is from Vicky Teinaki and is based on Rachel’s book.Triangle of Time, Knowledge, and Enthusiasm, the keys to getting more and better writing done.

2. Make a list ranked by size of mess. The list is your friend. You can cross things off and the illusion of progress will be yours. 😉 Set yourself free from endless revision cycles. Figure out what you want to do and check it off as you do it.

3. Do the big stuff first. You know: start with the story structure problems, like the thrilling final conflict that isn’t. Or the main character whose motivations need work. Then go on to the ticking clock correction, season adjusting, and setting consistency stuff. Save the lyrical language and typos for last.

Scrivener’s status menus can help you stay on track. The FEEDBACK FOLDER post has screenshots.

4. Please excuse the mess. Revision is much more efficient this way, but you may have to practice overlooking the fallen plaster until the heavy lifting is done. Tracking your progress helps your inner child see that you WILL arrive.

Happy Revising!

Got some tips to make revision go more smoothly? Feel free to share!

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Tame Your Revision Step-by-Step: 7 Simple Steps to a FEEDBACK FOLDER in Scrivener

Infographic of 7 revision management tips battery icons

One of the problems with getting feedback on your manuscript is overwhelm. If you’ve got five Word documents floating on your computer somewhere, it can bring your revision process to standstill.

This post is about the simple way I keep track of valuable feedback from my critique partners.

Over at The Winged Pen, you can read the Tame Your Revision overview as text and download the infographic.

Last week my post about SLICE AND LABEL was unexpectedly popular. So here’s the second post in my how to manage your revision process with Scrivener. Hope it’s useful!

If you’re not a Scrivener fan, you can use your organizing tool of choice. And share your tips in the comments if you feel so inclined.

Here’s how I use a FEEDBACK FOLDER in Scrivener:

  1. Create a place for feedback in Scrivener’s Research folder. When you open a new file in Scrivener, you have a Manuscript folder and a Research folder. I put feedback in the Research folder because I don’t want these “words” included in my manuscript word count. Click on the folder name and type to re-name it. I call this folder FEEDBACK. (Brilliant, no? I told you this was simple.)
Screenshot of Scrivener showing highlighted Research folder and Project--New Folder drop down menu.
Create a new subfolder in Scrivener’s Research folder

2. Click on the FEEDBACK folder and create a few subfolders. I have SYNOPSIS, DRAFT, and QUERY because I work on each of those separately. You could have one for PITCHES too.

Screenshot of FEEDBACK folder with subfolders SYNOPSIS, DRAFT, QUERY.

    Create folders for each kind of feedback.

3. Import Word* files with feedback and label them with critiquer’s name and date. This way I know at a glance who has seen what even if I fall into a revision hole for a while. Critique partners’ time is valuable. Don’t want to waste it.

(Don’t toss the original files yet until you decide if you like reading the feedback from within Scrivener. The comments can get kind of small.)

My crit partners are very kind and also send me general comments via e-mail or Twitter. I paste these into the file so all their insight is in the same place. (I know–not rocket science. Took me a while.)

*Or whatever form your feedback arrives in. Physical objects don’t work well, so save any tomatoes for salsa.

Screenshot of Scrivener File--Import--Files
Import those Word files with Track Changes that are cluttering up your desktop.

4. Flag the feedback you want to re-visit. Here you see my current draft and a long list of files that represent the hard work of my critique partners. On the right-hand side you see the Inspector panel. (If yours looks different, go to View–Inspector–Synopsis. Then click on the blue circle with the i on it in the upper right-hand corner.

Screenshot of Scrivener's View--Inspector--Synopsis menus
Find Scrivener’s Inspector with the View–Inspector–Synopsis menus and the tiny white i on a blue circle.

5. Pick a color. Click on the drop down arrows next to the Label field, Scrivener will let you pick a label or edit to create your own. Double-click on the color to change it.

Screenshot of Label menu showing categories and colors
The menu that pops up when you click on edit in the Label or Notes dropdowns.

6. Make it really obvious. Scrivener lets you change the color of the file in the Binder so you can easily see what feedback you want to re-visit.

Screenshot of View--Use Label Color in--Binder menus
Don’t lose your place in your next revision. Scrivener can help.

7. Motivation and Status. Click on the Status arrows to choose a status. Scrivener’s existing Statuses are handy. I like concrete labels like: “Send to name of critique partner” or “Posted on Wattpad.”

*FYI, Scrivener’s Status menu doesn’t let you color code, so I use it for things I want to know when I’m “in” the file. If you need color, use the Label menu.

Screenshot of Scrivener's Status dropdown.
Add a goalpost to your revision with Scrivener’s Status dropdown. Click on + to add a new one.

There you are, a shiny new FEEDBACK folder and a game plan for your revision.

Happy Revision! Let me know how it goes!

If you’d like to see the SLICE AND LABEL post, click here.

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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I recommend a new middle grade book, and share story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

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Tame Your Revision Step-by-Step: SLICE AND LABEL with Scrivener

tameyourrevision

Revising a novel is a form of bookkeeping. How do you keep from losing your mind? At The Winged Pen, we’re talking Revision. You can read the overview and download the infographic here.

To go along with the Winged Pen’s post, I’m attempting a “how-to” series. Let me know how you like it.

If you find yourself in a revision rut, may this jog your creative process back onto the smooth road.

If you’re not a Scrivener person, feel free to adapt to your tool of choice. There’s more than one way to slice and dice a manuscript! 🙂

Here’s how I SLICE AND LABEL in Scrivener:

  1. Select the chapter(s) or scene(s) I want to revise today. In the screenshot below, I’ve selected the chapter “A Delayed Party.”
  2. Duplicate the chapter folder including the scenes inside the folder and give it a new name. Scrivener just adds the word “copy” to the end of the name.
Screen shot of Scrivener menu, Documents--Duplicate--With subdocuments and unique title
How to duplicate files in Scrivener

3. Read through the chapter and see what’s happening. For example, “Conversation about goldfish.” Or “Transition to Castle.” I don’t make a judgement about whether its worthy to stay in the story. Just label and move on.

In the screenshot below, I’ve highlighted “Mamma had noticed!” as the beginning of a conversation about goldfish. Scrivener offers me the choice of “at Selection” or “with Selection as Title.”

Screenshot of Documents--Split--At selection
How to slice and dice your manuscript in Scrivener.

 

I choose “with Selection as title” and Scrivener creates a new text with the title “Mamma had noticed!” I can click on the label and change it to Conversation about goldfish if I want.

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-9-29-23-am

4. Put like things together. Write new connections. Once all the pieces are labeled, it’s easy to see where you’ve covered the same thing twice. I lift out the pieces I want, leaving the throat-clearings and engine-startings behind. Add transitions if needed.

5. Merge everything together. Scrivener will put “A prank” and “Mamma had noticed!” together and label them “A prank.” You can change that after the merge by clicking on the name and typing over it.

Presto! A nice tight scene with all the ingredients you need to move your story forward.

Screenshot of Scrivener Documents--Merge. The selected files on the left are highlighted in blue.
How to merge the good stuff together again in Scrivener.

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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I recommend a new middle grade book, and share story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

 

 

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Preparing for NaNoWriMo? Step 3: Cutting your story into squares

1000-year-old brick paving in a herringbone pattern.
If you can’t see which way your story is pointing, maybe you need some building blocks. Byzantine brick paving. Ravenna, Italy. © Laurel Decher, 2016.

This is the third post in a short series on preparing for National Novel Writing Month. You can find the first post about collecting ingredients here and the second post about finding the core of your story here. Happy Writing!

Dan Wells’ 7 Point Structure video lectures are helping me so much that I’m squeezing in an extra blog post to help writers getting ready for National Novel Writing Month. Dan’s five lectures are only ten minutes each and well worth watching. If you watch them first, this post will probably make more sense.

Or feel free to get a taste of why I got excited about these videos by reading my post first. NaNoWriMo season is all about finding out whatever works for your writing process. Take your time playing with this. A little bit here and there is perfect. Enjoy!

Step 0: Optional. Markers and real index cards work too. I’ve got a little present for you: A plotting template. Yay! Read the files in Word or import them into Scrivener for future use (see bottom of post for how to). Download the files from Dropbox here.

Note: You don’t need a Dropbox account. Just click on the tiny blue print that says “No thanks” and Dropbox will give you the files.

Step 1: Import or type up the 7 Point Structure in Scrivener or in your software of choice. A simple table will work fine. The numbers on each card are the order Dan uses in the video to figure out the plot points. The letters on each card are the order the plot points occur in the story. I typed up his tips on each card to help myself through the process.

How to use the index cards: Start with the ending of the story (RESOLUTION). The RESOLUTION isn’t the wrap-up here, it’s the thrilling final victory or defeat.

The opposite of the RESOLUTION is the beginning (HOOK). The MIDPOINT is the half-way point in the story between the HOOK and the RESOLUTION. After that, it’s a repeated cutting the story in half, like cutting brownies in a pan.

7 index cards on corkboard background.
Scrivener Index Cards for the 7 Point Structure described by Dan Wells.

Congratulations! Now you have an overall shape for your story. That will help a lot during NaNoWriMo, even if it changes while you write. If you’re anything like me, it will. Feel free to stop here. Letting your story grow in your subconscious makes it much easier to get the words later on.

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-12-19-52-pm
7 Point Structure Index Cards going down the page with 4 Story Threads going across: CHARACTER, ACTION, FRIENDSHIP, BETRAYAL. Based on Dan Wells’ video series.

Step 2: If you’ve got more story ideas that need a home, you can repeat the process above for each story thread. Dan Wells’ video uses CHARACTER, ACTION, FRIENDSHIP, BETRAYAL. (I changed the ROMANCE category to FRIENDSHIP because I write Middle Grade.) I put a few key words under each thread to jog my memory. It’s easier to do this across all the threads, i.e. the RESOLUTION for each thread, followed by the HOOK.

Cut and paste the different threads from your overarching 7 Point Index Cards and add more where you need it. Remember that all the HOOKs don’t have to happen simultaneously.

Be gentle with yourself. If you’ve got blank spaces or you can’t figure it all out at once, go away and come back later. You’ve got a whole month to play with this. Joy is key.

Step 3: If November still hasn’t arrived (or if it has and you’re taking a break from the words), you can sort your index cards into chronological order. Now you have a handy scene list to write from. Since 7 x 4 is 28 :), you now have an index card for each day in NaNoWriMo. And two “free days” for catching up. Well done!

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-12-21-32-pm
Index Cards for 7 Point Structure sorted into chronological story order.

Step 4: Try/Fail Cycles for Extra credit. Dan Wells talked about the power of Try/Fail Cycles. Add some to the middle of your story, right around the PLOT TURN 2, and get your readers to cheer for your characters.

If you’ve got fifteen minutes, listen to Writing Excuses’ great tips for how to succeed at Try/Fail Cycles.

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-12-21-50-pm
Pump up the middle of your story with Try/Fail Cycles and get your readers cheering for your characters.

How did it go? Did you try Dan Wells’ 7 Point Story Structure? Do you have a good feeling for your story now?

Happy writing!

Download the templates files from Dropbox here. The Template Sheets folder in Scrivener is inside your current project. Drag the files into the folder and they magically become Template sheets. Look down at the bottom of the Binder and you should see something like this:

Screen shot of Template Sheets folder in Scrivener's Binder showing location right above Trash.
Screen shot of Template Sheets folder in Scrivener’s Binder showing location right above Trash.

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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share new middle grade fiction, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

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Preparing for NaNoWriMo? Step 1: Clear the Decks and Collect Ingredients

Ingredients set out to be transformed into imaginative cakes and tortes. Poppelsdorfer Schloss café, Bonn, Germany. © Laurel Decher, 2016.
Ingredients set out to be transformed into imaginative cakes and tortes. Poppelsdorfer Schloss café, Bonn, Germany. © Laurel Decher, 2016.

A friend (waving to Jane!) asked me how to prepare for National Novel Writing Month and after I sent her the third e-mail, suggested I write a blog post since November 1st is coming right up.

This is the first post in a short series on preparing for National Novel Writing Month. You can find the second post about finding the core of your story here and the third post about organizing your story bits and pieces into a winning shape here. Happy Writing!

Jane had lots of good ways to clear the decks:

  1. Read Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem!
  2. Freeze a few extra dinners.
  3. Set up to write. Get the writing set-up organized, whether that means lots of spiral notebooks or Scrivener on your computer or iPad.
  4. Plan your time. Block out writing-free days in November. Set up word-count targets in Scrivener or use the free online Pacemaker.

I had a few more ideas about the actual writing prep. It looks a little different depending on the kind of inspiration you’ve got for this project, but it’s all about putting it where you can find it again.

  1. No inspiration? Then set up virtual or physical shoeboxes*, go out into your world with all your senses active and find some. The things that appeal to you personally give your book that unique voice people are always talking about. Don’t skimp here.
  2. Idea for a character? Try the brilliant and deceptively simple Reverse Backstory Tool to nail down your character’s wants and needs.
  3. Idea for a setting? Go to the library and get a pile of photo books or picture books that give you visuals. When you get stuck writing, dip into a book and whatever you see, goes into the story. If you’ve got a contemporary, realistic story in mind, you could try the Urban Setting Thesaurus or the Rural Setting Thesaurus.
  4. Idea for some part of a story? Try this fascinating Day by Day Outline for NaNoWriMo. This list could save you when it’s 10 PM and you’re sleeping on the keyboard, but you want another 1,000 words.

*Virtual shoeboxes can be anything from a Word file with a long, alphabetized list of ideas of all kinds, a private blog that lets you search for that elusive link, a Pinterest board, or a nifty app on your smartphone. Pick something fun and easy to use.

Have favorite ways to get ready for NaNoWriMo? Share your tips for success in the comments below.

_______________

If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share new middle grade fiction, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

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