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Unravelling The Ribbons of Your Story

I’m a slow writer.  I tend to live with a story for a long time before putting it on paper, and I’ll read, reread, and re-re-reread chapters multiple times before moving on to the next section.  The problem is, all that familiarity can lead to … too much familiarity.  It’s hard to edit and revise when you are looking at a chapter for the 99th time.

But I’ve found a way to look at my manuscript with fresh eyes, and if you write in multiple POVs, it can work for you, too.  Once I’ve finished a complete draft that I’m relatively happy with, I unspool the story, chapter by chapter, until every character has his or her own ‘book.’  And then I read each book through from start to finish.

Braided Scarf Detail by LollyKnit [1]
Braided Scarf Detail by LollyKnit

I’m using Scrivener right now, and I’m sure there is an easier way to do it, but here’s my procedure: 

  1. I back up my completed manuscript in multiple places, labelling the backups with the date and time.
  2. I duplicate the original manuscript.
  3. I go through and identify each character’s chapters in the duplicate (a task made easier because, when writing, I label each chapter with a number and the character’s name or initial).
  4. I create a new document for each character.
  5. I copy and paste the appropriate chapters into each document, saving each with the date and the character’s name.

Reading through my chapters this way has several benefits.  In some ways it is like reading my book for the first (not the 400th) time.  It also helps me to:

As I write and edit, I also make comments to myself in the document, so that I know what changes I need to make in other chapters.  Then I braid the whole story back together, do another read through to make sure I haven’t missed anything, and then send it off to a beta reader so the whole process can start again.

Now it’s your turn to share — what revising tricks help you look at a manuscript with fresh eyes?

About Liz Michalski [2]

Liz Michalski's (she/her) first novel, Evenfall, was published by Berkley Books (Penguin). Liz has been a reporter, an editor, and a freelance writer. In her previous life, she wrangled with ill-tempered horses and oversized show dogs. These days she's downsized to one husband, two children and a medium-sized mutt.