Revision, Part 2: Editing Fiction after a Long Break

Needlepoint art made for me by a friend that faces my computer.
It reminds me  every day to keep on trying, Photo by Linda Wilson

Whatever the reason for a long gap in time while writing your novel, measures can be taken to jump right back in. In the past I've tried writing an air-tight outline, or so I thought; following the plot line on 3 x 5 cards, or simply jotting the story on paper and computer as it came to me.

The magic didn't happen until I laid out the story on 12 x 18 paper. My current story has taken up four of these sheets. What a help to see at one glance the story in its entirety, to back up and make a change in the proper place when a later tidbit needs to be taken out or added in.

If you want to give this method a try, here is what you'll need.

Ready, set . . .

  • A long absence from your story: Mine was four months
  • A pencil: Mine are #2's and an electric sharpener for a sharp point, which makes me feel sharp
  • Color Sharpie or pen: To keep track of the thread of the story
  • The latest version of your story, most likely typed: Useful as a guide
  • 12 x 18 or similar size large paper: Divided into sections for chapters
  • Scratch paper: To work out problems before entry
  • 4 x 6 lined post-it paper: For story basics, i.e., story problem, list of characters, genre, age level, etc.
  • Bulletin Board: To display book title and post-it papers covering story basics
. . . Go . . .
  • Divide the 12 x 18 paper into six sections, one for each chapter. Label each section by chapter number and title, if applicable.
  • Using a past version, notecards, and/or outline, tell your story in bullets chapter by chapter
  • With color pen, include separate bullets listing the thread of your story. My story is a mystery, so I jotted down what mysterious thing(s) happened in each chapter, making these color bullets a separate list to help make sure that the story moves forward
  • At the end, use a section for questions, points not yet made but want to include, illustration notes, etc.
Post on your bulletin board the 4 x 6 post-it papers, which will include:
  • Title
  • Book Basics: Story problem, verb tense, setting, theme, etc.
  • 12 x 18 pages
  • List of characters and their role in the story
  • Include any pictures you have collected of the setting, characters, etc.
Essentially, you've wallpapered your bulletin board with your entire book written on post-its and 12 x 18 paper.

Now what?

Leave this project up on your board while you move on. Once you've worked up the next project in a similar way, leave it and go back to the original project and begin writing or re-writing your story. (My additional projects get taped to the inside doors of my office so I can view each one separately at a glance). When the original project is written, file the posted materials in case you need them again and begin sending the draft out to your writer's group, then begin marketing it. Now, time to move on to the next project, which is ready to go.

On a personal note: I don't know if I'll need to continue this process with more experience under my belt. But I'm happy to have found a method that works for me. And, I think it will work even if I spend less time away.

Please comment: Tell us what method works for you. Have you tried this method? If you haven't, do you think it could work for you?

For Revision, Part 1: please visit An Early Fiction Checklist

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 40 articles for adults and children and six short stories for children. Recently she completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction and picture book courses. She is currently working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.


elysabeth said...

Great posting, Linda. My friend said this sounded interesting and would like to see a picture of your process. E :)

Linda Wilson said...

Great, elysabeth! I will be happy to post a picture of my worksheet and story basics from my bulletin board. I will see if I can post it in a reply to this post. If not, I'll get to your contact info to get the photos to you!

Helen Henderson said...

Since i create a novel notebook for each of my works, when a series refuses to die and I create another volume, I open up and the characters return to life as I go through the pictures that helped provide the initial inspiration. I don't have to worry about name spellings as they are all there in a neat spreadsheet.And if I'm editing an existing WIP, the novel notebook has a storyline to guide me through the story if I need to fill in missing spots or add to them.

Karen Cioffi said...

Linda, great post. I use character and scene files on my computer, but it sounds like the post card method would be easier to see the whole picture. Thanks for sharing.

Linda Wilson said...

Thank you for sharing your methods, Helen and Karen. It is terrific food for thought in helping to narrow down the best way to keep our stories alive while at the same time organizing story basics for optimum writing time.

Linda Wilson said...

Elysabeth, please visit my Facebook page to view the photos of my process.

Shirley Corder said...

Thanks for this Linda. What is your Facebook page URL please?

Linda Wilson said...

Hi Shirl, can you get to my FB page by clicking on the link in my photo? If not, please send me a friend request. Thanks!

Linda Wilson said...

In my bio, sorry, at end of post.

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