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It’s. Done.

Stick a fork in it.

After a solid year plus four months of writing (and five years of gestating in my brain), my WIP is finished.  Monday I mailed to my agent for her revisions, and I can take a break.


Regular blog readers know I’ve been using Holly Lisle’s One-Pass Manuscript Revision [1] process for this project, my first time.  Holly claimed she could revise a rough draft in one go and do it in two weeks.  I was intrigued.  Two weeks to fix plot craters wider than an asteroid, characters as appetizing as cat food, sloppy prose, etc.?  I’m in!

I figured if it took Holly two weeks, it would take me two months.  Four months later (koff) I’m proud to say I have a finished product that I’m not ashamed to send to my agent and my fabulous critique partners, but that still needs some polishing. 

So how did the One-Pass method stack up?

Well, Holly warned that it would be hard.  And it was.

Here’s the process in a nutshell.  You have a crap first draft, but it’s done.  You sit down with it and a notebook, a pen (or mechanical pencil in my case), and some Post It notes, and start ripping it up.  You’re supposed to write down plot points you need to fix, characters that need dumping, research areas to be plugged, in the notebook.  In the manuscript, you’re supposed to heartlessly cut scenes that don’t work and rewrite new scenes that do move your story forward.  This is the time to go back and decide if your secondary character has yellow hair or black.  This is the time to research if the protagonist carries a Glock or a Magnum.  You must do the scut-work you’d been putting off NOW.

I happily ripped and sliced and diced.  I have no problems editing.  Sometimes I think my problem is that I do too much and don’t know when to stop myself.  But writing down notes to myself in that notebook….eeesh.  I found that after a few chapters, it was easier to fix it in the manuscript itself than write it in a notebook.  Post Its were great reminders.  And by this time, my head was so in the story, I’d remember what I needed to do when I got to it.

And that’s the great strength of the One-Pass Revision.  Your head is so in the story, you can see where you need to go pretty clearly.

So I got that part done, and as predicted, the thing looked like hell with scribbles and Post Its everywhere.  Then on to Stage Two.  The type in phase.

This is where you realize that One-Pass Revision is really two-pass, but that’s good.  Your critical eye gets another gander at all the scribbles and fresh scenes when you start pounding it into your document.  You’d think that this part would go really fast, and I’ve read on Holly’s blog [2] that she can do a 150,000 word revision in a week.  I believe her, but for me, I can’t physically sit in front of a computer that long to get that kind of work done.  I just can’t.  Plus my brain fries out after a few hours of deep revision anyway.  So my type-in phase took another four weeks.

And then you’re supposed to be done.  Except I knew I wasn’t done.  When you’re working at such a brutal pace, you’re in the box.  You can’t see your mistakes, the trite dialogue and boring adjectives that shouldn’t even be in there in the first place.  I also had skeletal new scenes that needed more fleshing out. 

So I did another go-round and cleaned out obvious goofs, and amplified scenes.  What I didn’t do was revise the plot any more.  This was it.  The story was set, for good or ill.  No more experimenting with scenes, no more introducing characters that seemed cool in the middle of the night when they wandered into your head, no more anything.  Time to move on.

And that’s what this method gets you to do.  Move on.  For some of us, that’s the hardest thing to do, letting go of a story. 

Here’s where I differ from Holly (though who the hell am I, I’m unpubbed and she has 20 titles to her name).  I think it’s worth the time to spend on a third, even fourth go-round just to make sure your prose is crackling, you don’t have any extraneous dialogue tags, stupid goofs, and so forth.  Maybe she’s been doing this so long she doesn’t make those kind of mistakes any more, but I sure do and I want them gone before industry professionals even come close to my project.

So I humbly ask that you keep your fingers crossed for me that this is the one that sells.  Though whether it does or doesn’t, I’ll still be regaling you with tales of more road-tested manuscript revision processes.

You can bet on it.

About Kathleen Bolton [3]

Kathleen Bolton is co-founder of Writer Unboxed. She writes under a variety of pseudonyms, including Ani Bolton [4]. She has written two novels as Cassidy Calloway [5]: Confessions of a First Daughter, and Secrets of a First Daughter--both books in a YA series about the misadventures of the U.S. President's teen-aged daughter, published by HarperCollins, and Tamara Blake, for the novel Slumber [6].