Wow. It’s been a long haul, but you’ve analyze your story for seven long lessons, from Character Goals to Plot Twists to the End and the Beginning. Now it’s time to put it put it all together. Finally it’s time to fix it. What? You’re worried that you can’t fix it or that fixing it will destroy what you loved about it? Take a deep breath. You’ve done your homework, right? No reason to worry. You have all the tools you need to shine it up and fall in love with it all over again.
For this lesson you will need all of your notes from the previous seven lessons, a pen and paper, lots of it, music, snacks and fluids, a three-ring binder or other organizing notebook, and uninterrupted time. You see we’ve been working on preparing your mind, your muse, if you prefer. And now, you’re going to tell your muse that it’s time to work.
Gather all of your notes and your manuscript. You will need a large stack of paper and several pens (you don’t want to run out of ink in the middle of inspiration, do you?) Lay in some easy to eat, healthy snacks and lots of water. You need to stay hydrated and keep your blood sugar up in order to be your most creative and productive.
For many people music helps focus them as they write. If you are one of those people, select a song or two that inspires you to write. Be sure it’s something you can listen to over and over. If you are one who prefers white noise or no noise, please feel free to surround yourself with an environment that makes you productive as a writer.
My favorite revisioning music includes Escala perfoming Palladio by Karl Jenkins.
Plan at least one whole day, if possible, that you will be completely uninterrupted. Yes, I know some of you have small children or others who depend upon you for care. If you can’t get a whole day, you can’t. Do the best that you can. Make it the longest uninterrupted time period you can.
The Day Before
Prepare your writing space. Put your supplies where they are handy. Your notes in front of you and the paper and pens off to the side.
Read your notes and scene cards. Read them One Time Only. I mean it. You’re feeding your muse one last time. Find the story sentence you created for your story. Does it still say what you want your story to be about? If it does write it across the top of your first sheet of paper. Do not write anything else. If your mind / muse keeps bringing up ideas, tell it ‘that might be a good idea, keep working on it.’ And put it out of your mind for today. Put your notes and your manuscript away. You will not look at them again for a while. Get a good night’s sleep.
This is the day you’ve dedicated to completing the revisioning of your story. You’ve got your pen and paper, you fluids and snacks laid in, your notes in front of you, your music or white noise or silence going. Now is the time. Without looking at your notes, begin writing the outline of your story. Do not say no to any idea that flows onto your paper. Write fast. Do not worry about whether this outline is the same as your original. Just write. Ideally, you will finish your outline in one day. If you don’t, that’s all right, keep the interruptions to a minimum until you are finished. (For those of you who find handwriting difficult, do what is comfortable for you. This should be a pleasure, not painful.)
The New Outline
Written fast, the new outline will have some surprises for you. You may have thought of new scenes that sharpen the conflict or focus of your story. You may have some plot holes. Now you can compare your new outline with your scene cards. Study the two with an editorial eye. Decide which scenes will build the conflict, the story you’ve been dreaming of. Make certain the conflict builds, the pace builds, and your character faces a choice. Write new scene cards, matching your new outline. Does your story sentence still apply? If not, write a revised story sentence.
Your Project Bible
Once you have your revised outline, you need to create your Project Bible. Revising a novel is a long process. This is going to be your reference while you do your rewrite. It will help keep you organized and keep your details consistent.
Your Project Bible will have sections in it for each major character, for each location where your characters interact, any research or photos that you need to keep facts straight, and a timeline. In each character’s section you will list physical attributes, habits, clothing preferences, pet’s names, backstory, and maybe even a family tree. In each location section you will have a layout map of the location so that you can move your characters through that location consistently. In your layout use pictures or descriptions so you know what interiors look like from color, to number and types of furniture, to where the squeak in the floor is. If it’s an outdoor location you may need to include a topographical map, lists and photos of the flora and fauna that are indigenous to the area. Don’t forget to include all five senses in this section. Your research section will have the research you’ve done that keeps your story authentic. Finally, your timeline section will have the timeline of your story and your story world. This may need to include the actual, historical timeline if you’re writing a historical novel. If you are writing a science fiction novel your Project Bible may need to include a section on science, religion, planets, or space travel vehicles. Add things to your Project Bible as you rewrite your novel and discover new details, characters, or locations.
With your new outline, your new scene cards and your new Project notebook beside you, it’s time to begin the rewrite. Rewriting your novel will be an experience of joy and frustration, but trust the process. And no matter what, finish the rewrite. You will learn something about your writing, your writing process, and yourself that will be sure to be invaluable to you in your career.
And it’s the end of this series of posts. Thank you so much for hanging in there with me. And please, let me know if this has been helpful to you. Even if you don’t finish your rewrite for a year, stop by, tell me how it went. I’m rooting for you!
If you haven’t been following this series. Please check out the first six posts on Re-visioning Your Story:
Lesson 1: Re-Visioning Your Story
Lesson 2: Are Your Character’s Goals Golden?
Lesson 3: Twist the Knife Slowly
Lesson 5: As the Plot Turns
Lesson 6: Is There a Time and Place in Your Story?
Lesson 7: From the End to the Beginning
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