The Drafting/Editing Transition & the Evolving Revision Map

So, I promised a few more details about how I approach the transitionary period between drafting and actual revising and here they are. These aren’t rules. What follows is my generalized approach.

As the word implies, I’ve ceased to view drafting and revising as separate functions. If, while you write, you tuck notes into your draft or leave comments, that’s a form of what I do. I ceased, for the most part, inserting comments, preferring instead to take advantage of Scrivener’s other capabilities.

In fact, it was the freedom to experiment with Scrivener that prompted much of my approach.

Floating Reference Panels

I am in love with Scrivener’s floating reverence panels. I cluster select ones to one side of the screen while in composition mode. As long as part of one is always visible I can click on it as needed.

One that I keep available is my Revision Map. When drafting. I add to it, but when revising I shrink it. I say shrink rather than delete from because some of the items in my Revision Map apply to more than one chapter.

Reference panels (left) & text (right) while drafting So Others Might Remember in 2018. There’s also a menu dropped down over the floating panels. Photo: CA Hawthorne

Micro versus Macro Changes

When revising there are the micro changes (in one chapter), that are numerous, but can be deleted as I make them. Changes to threads and arcs, though, run through the draft and are macro.

Sometimes I suspect where macro changes will go, but I prefer to make those calls when I’m revising. That’s when I have a better feel for where an insertion fits best.

For instance, as I neared the end of Deadly Stroll, Talma started using a phrase that I loved because it fit her so well. That phrase, though, is absent from over 75% of the novel. Thus, I’ll have a reminder near the beginning of the Revision Map to use it here and there.

That’s the reason why I reorder the Revision Map as I go along. Before I begin each chapter I review the macro changes and see which ones could apply to the current chapter.

Singular Eyes Used Multiple Times

There’s just me. That’s it. Years ago, I’d draft and set the story aside. However long later, I’d pull it out and start revising. In other words, I was seeing it with fresh eyes, which was good, but I was also putting considerable pressure on those eyes to catch a lot.

Over time, I realized that if I was sneaky I could slip a few extra viewings in before I revised. If, during each viewing, I made notes, it’d be like multiple people seeing the story (okay, it isn’t assorted beta readers, but it’s closer).

The first quasi viewing happens when I’m drafting. This requires minimal effort since drafting is my focus. I’m barely aware I’m doing it anymore. Too, when I’m done drafting I often add additional notes that surface from my subconscious.

The second viewing occurs at some point during the transitionary period. It can be weeks later, or even months later. It really doesn’t matter. I read the story quickly and add additional notes (or subtract if I believe one made earlier was unwarranted or the solution is wrong). I get away with this because I have multiple projects in various stages of completion.

The third viewing happens right before I begin formal revisions and serves two purposes. First, I reread the story as a beta reader and make notes. Second, I’m again immersed in the story so the whole of it is in my mind when I start revising.

You could say it’s just me reviewing the story several times, and there’s truth in that. It’s also true, though, that my perspective changes as my role changes. In a sense, I go from drafter to reader to pre-editor to revising.

*I perform an increasingly scaled-down version of all of this as I move from one revision to another.

It’s All Relative

So, that’s my process? In a general sense. It’s all relative, though, because each novel is different. With each novel I personally change, my knowledge and experience grows, and my process evolves.

Photo: CA Hawthorne
Photo: CA Hawthorne

My best example would be the contrast between NaNo2016 (my 3rd) and NaNo2019 (my 6th).

In 2016 (A River in Each Hand) I was still switching over to Deep POV, was overhauling my Ontyre maps, and was writing my first ever sequel. I was also extremely sick, my lungs oxygen deprived. I was scaling down my drafting expectations by the day.

In 2019 (Protecting the Pneuma Key) I was in excellent health and working part-time. The changes to my world were behind me, but I was writing my first Pannulus novel. I’m always learning, but my process was more established.

The result is that my Revision Map for River was extensive and detailed, going chapter by chapter. Additions and subtractions to the novel were often large. Meanwhile, the Pneuma Key Revision Map was a list of key points with less structure.

In the End…

Most writers rely on beta readers and/or critique partners to do some of what I do, but isn’t available to me at the moment. To help, and, just as important, to maintain my link to the novel, I do what I’ve shared here. After all, as beta reader feedback trickles in, a writer is mentally returned to the novel between edits. I maintain that link my own way.

My Revision Map is alternately feedback and a guide.

Keep in mind, though, that as is the case with my narrative outline, I’m never married to what’s contained in the Revision Map. Every step in my process is flexible.

Always pick and choose ideas. Try them out. Adapt them. That’s what finding your process is all about, a process that doesn’t end when drafting ends.

About Christina Anne Hawthorne

Alive and well in the Rocky Mountains. I'm a fantasy writer who also dabbles in poetry, short stories, and map making. My Ontyre tales are an alternative fantasy experience, the stories rich in mystery, adventure, and romance. Alternative fantasy? Not quite steampunk. Not quite gothic. In truth, the real magic is in those who discover what's within.
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