The Art of Drafting…and Revising (how I approach it all):
Hi everyone! *waves*
I’m stoked to be here and share some of my weirdness, dreams and most importantly how I draft and revise novels. I’m Rebecca Sky, the author of ARROWHEART, which is about the strong female descendants of Greek God Eros who have the power to take the will of any boy they kiss…dun dun dun… I hope you enjoy this post and be sure to read through to the bottom for your chance to win an Owlcrate subscription box and your very own blue Arrowheart lipstick.
I’m a combo writer – half plotter, half pantser (you can call me a Panther! It sounds badass!). Mostly I let my ideas steep for months, asking myself questions (this is the most important part for me*) and fleshing out the world and characters before I even bring it to paper. Then I typically use a beat sheet or the Heroes journey plot technique or a hybrid of the two (Beat the Hero? Sheet Journey?) and I write down the key plot points, then I panther™ between them!
I like to use Scrivener when I draft, as it’s easy to move chapters around, they have an awesome progress tracker, and it helps keep me organized with their notes and cue card options. And I need all the organizational help during drafting as possible. I’m a spoonie (I have a chronic pain condition) I can’t always work from my desk. Sometimes I’m in bed propped up with pillows, sometimes I’m in the bath writing on my waterproof phone (Yay, Samsung!) and that means I end up with voice memos, notes scribbled on napkins/concert tickets/the back of other books (is this bad?), chapters texted to myself, random pages in notebooks filled with illegible scrawl, and more cue cards than I can count. For me the drafting stage is allowed to be messy, you’re allowed to have flat characters and plot holes. The important part of drafting, is it’s where you allow yourself to dream out loud (I have “dream out loud” tattooed on me!).
*sample questions: What does this character want, what do they need? What’s keeping them from getting those things? What do they hate/love? What does the villain want/need/hate/love? What is the power structure of the world/family/friend group? What are the physical attributes of the world/scene? How do those influence my characters? etc…
Typically, I revise in a few stages.
Stage one is going through your messy draft and filling in holes, fleshing out characters, making the ink splatterings on the canvass look like a complete and intentional painting. I typically start at the beginning and work my way through, that way I get a good sense of my overall story arc and the pacing of my book. If I’m bored reading spots, then readers will be too, so I mark those down and go back after and see if I can cut those scenes or if not, how I can make them more exciting. More often than not, scenes that slog are scenes where my main character is being passive and reactionary, instead of having agency and drive. So usually that’s the first thing I change. Tension speeds pacing, and so I like to make sure I have it in every chapter, whether physical tension like a chase or a fight, or emotional tension like a budding romance or a betrayal.
Stage two is giving it to Beta readers or CP’s. I like to give it to one at a time, then I go through the notes and make changes before giving the fresh version to the next Beta. It’s best to have as many as possible look over your book at this stage, as everyone has a different worldview and different skillset and will notice and suggest things you wouldn’t even think of.
When reading through people’s notes on your work, be sure to read them all before you start making changes. Often times there are notes or suggestions toward the end of your manuscript that influence the beginning and it saves you having to go back and make corrections if you know that before starting. And you don’t have to make all their suggestions. Weigh their notes against your vision for your book. Ask yourself, does this suggestion align with my vision? Does it strengthen that? Does it change it? Then make the ones you feel best fit your book.
Stage three is hiring a Sensitivity reader (or three!). Sensitivity readers read with the intention of finding areas of ignorance, areas of your manuscript that could be harmful to readers, etc. They are worth their weight in gold. I’m a liberal socialist and I feel like I’m fairly well informed but every time I work with a sensitivity reader I learn more about myself and my assumptions and how twisted into privilege some of my world views are. It’s humbling and has helped me grow as an author and a person.
Stage four is polish, polish, polish!
Thanks so much for hanging with me today on For The Love of KidLit’s blog! I’d love to connect and chat about drafting/revising more. You can always find me on Twitter or Instagram. And as an added thank you, I’ll be giving away an Owlcrate subscription box.
Enter that giveaway here!
P.S. Here’s a picture of my two babies!!! Aren’t they adorable?!
Here’s an excerpt of Arrowheart for you to check out:
Be sure to grab your copy of Arrowheart to read more! And for a limited time receive a Rockstar tours exclusive Blue Arrowheart Lipstick as a thank you gift. #KissTheBoysAndMakeThemCry