Revision Tip: Write it Twice. Or Three Times. Or Ten.

I once saw a video by Anthony Marra, author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, where among other things he talked about his revision process and how he typed his story over and over. That moment was special for me. Angels didn’t sing or anything, but it was the first time I had ever run across another author who revised the same way I did.

When I came to the end of my Ashborne drafts, I printed them out. Then I proceeded to type them in again–line by line. I worked on the language a little more. saw the story in a new light. I encountered each page and each scene as if I were discovering it anew day by day.

The process worked well for me, so I continued to do the same thing with Flameborne. Of course, I made notes about major scene changes, but when it came to the revision work itself, I re-typed the story line by line. I’m on my third draft now, and this time I did something a little different.

I have two writing software programs I have used over the years, and continue to use. Technically, I guess I have three.

  • Microsoft Word
  • WriteWay
  • Scrivener

I mostly used Microsoft Word because I’m a creature of habit and it took a while to transition away from that trusted companion. Now I use it when I’m submitting work. Some publications want specific formats and it’s easier for me to save them from Word. Often, I’ll add a cover letter, so it makes sense to just work in one program.

I used WriteWay because when I chose my first writing software program, it was easier to use than Scrivener. It also had the ability to play back my story in an audio format, which is one feature I fell in love with. I’ve yet to run across that in Scrivener, though I admit I haven’t taken the time to learn Scrivener as well as I could (if it exists and you know how to set it up, please let me know!). I also thought the formatting functions were easier to understand in WriteWay.

Over the past few months, though, I’ve transitioned over to Scrivener for most of my work. I’ve set up workbooks in Scrivener for all of my poetry and then sub-files for different categories, like ‘published’, ‘unpublished’, ‘old (and cheesy)’, ‘a poem a day’, etc. I’ve done the same for all of my short stories. I’ve added color coding for years written, whether I’ve run the story by my writing group, and which publications I’ve submitted to for publication consideration, in addition to all of my acceptances. I LOVE my new system.

But now I’ll stop chasing that rabbit and get back to revision!

So this year, as I work between the second draft and the third draft of Flameborne, instead of printing out the second draft in its entirety, I’m retyping the second draft from WriteWay into Scrivener. What can I say. I’m becoming a digital pro. And I’m probably saving a baby tree somewhere.

This past week, I’ve re-typed Chapter Fifteen, made changes along the way, tightened up the prose, and expanded the dialogue a bit to bring some clarity and depth to the situation. I discovered one of my characters, an apprentice from the first story who’s become something of an unexpected guardian to a young dryad, came to life on the page and overshadowed one of my main characters, so I made some minor changes to bring that a little more in balance, letting the overshadowing character have some depth to her character, but taming down the magnitude of that depth by bringing the main character, a young boy who can manipulate time, back into the central focus of the scene.

This method of re-typing line by line works for me, because I’m able to zoom in on the moment and those moments become fresh for me each time I read them. If I didn’t retype them, I’ve found I tend to gloss over some details that just aren’t working, especially if I’ve read them for the twentieth time!

Published by casblomberg

Cas Blomberg is a native-English speaking writer who lives in Stockholm, Sweden.