Making goals for the revision process is vastly different than making writing goals. When writing, we can sit down and say “I shall write 1667 words per day for a month (NaNoWriMo), or ten thousand per week.” It’s all very math.
What happens once we get to the revision stage? We can’t revise on a schedule of words, since we’re deleting and adding words like crazy! Even pages can get a bit tricky when you’re moving things around.
There are two ways to do revision, electronically and with a hard copy. I enjoy staring at a computer screen for hours as much as the next guy (but not as much as the Tumblr addicts, amiright?), but that doesn’t mean it’s the best way for me to revise.
Methods of Revision
I find that using an electronic copy is much more feasible when paired with outside materials (whiteboard, pages taped to the wall, corkboard, sticky notes, and the comment feature on word processors). Maybe it’s just me, but I need to visually connect things, make notes, and use colors to keep my brain on track.
Electronic revision is more suited for changing ideas. Use the find/replace function to change a character’s name or figure out what color hair that secondary dude has. Want to find how many times you use the same phrasing? Want to find that one scene where your character curses for the first time? Want to track changes to see what alterations have been made?
The electronic version has it’s advantages. You can use a computer program’s functionality to get a more analytic view on your manuscript.
Hard Copy Revision
By hard copy revision, I mean printing the whole giganto beast off. Using a hard copy is useful when you want to tackle it in a single format, perform line editing or use sticky notes to mark important/specific passages. You can use all the sidebar tools listed in electronic revision. Sticky tabs/notes are particularly useful in marking specific passages.
With the paper in your hands, it’s much easier to get a feel and experience the book. The changes you make are less permanent and more stepwise. If you find a typo, you can’t just fix it. You have to mark it and then update it to the electronic version later.
How I’ve Handled It
Overall, I do electronic revision first, when I’m making changes quickly. Tweaking scenes, moving characters, and deleting extraneous goop.
When my brain gets too frazzled with different versions and scrolling up and down, I print it off. Because paper and printing can be time/money-consuming, I only really print the whole thing off once or twice total. Mostly, I like to wait to print it off until I want to do line edits, but sometimes, a hard copy is more helpful earlier on.
Currently, I’m working with a hard copy while still doing pre-proofing revisions. Let me tell you that flipping between pages is much faster and simpler than scrolling back and forth. Sometimes, you can’t beat the feel of paper.
Electronic Revision Goals
I find that this method is based less on page count than it is on getting an overall sense of your manuscript.
Making revision goals can be as simple as deciding to observe pacing and look for plot holes and punch things a little when they get out of line with the heart of the story. A lot of my goals were along the lines of “decide what to do with this character and figure out where the pacing is off.”
The first step of revision involves finding the problems. After all, you have to find them before you can fix them.
Hard Copy Revision Goals
Hard copies lend to page-based revision goals.
Making revision goals is a bit more solid, though. Five pages a day, one chapter per week, whatever works for you! Bookmarks are handy here, and there’s a definite sense of accomplishment tied to physically moving forward and turning those pages.