The Notebook

No. Not the movie. This is not that kind of blog.  I’m talking about the one elusive entity that is single-handedly getting me through the arduous revision process.  (And no, not Ryan Gosling. Please.)

Confession: I’m not pretending to be an expert on the revision process. Again, this is my first novel since the Nancy Drew-esque mysteries I wrote in second grade and the Sci-Fi series I drafted in fifth.  In other words, this is the first time I’ve written a manuscript that I’m really invested in perfecting: something that’s proven to be an incredibly daunting task, especially considering it’s pushing 75,000 words (and, with the action-packed chapters I outlined this morning, probably going to end up close to 90,000).

Yet thanks to my revision notebook, it all seems much more manageable. Yes, even major changes to vital scenes that I was almost too nervous to even consider altering before. I’m sure that almost any other writer who’s been faced with reworking a sizable piece can relate to this eternal struggle, so here are a few things I’ve learned in organizing my own magical revision notebook.

Simplicity is key. I know, I know, strange advice coming from someone who’s writing a book with three lines of narration, four subplots, and too many characters to count on your fingers. But hear me out––The simple, straightforward organizational design of my notebook helps keep all of that grounded.  The two first pages of my notebook are kind of a free-for-all, brainstorm style, but after that my thoughts fall into place in neat, labeled sections.  For each major change/chapter I’m planning on adding, I draw a clean line, a heading, and write in neat bullet points. Difficult as it might be, try to stay out of the margins. Your caffeine fueled/exhausted writing mind will thank you when you’re flipping through your notebook trying to find that one amazing idea you had last week in the middle of writing an action-packed character death scene.

Another tip: Use ink. I’ve found that writing in my revision notebook in ink helps me have more confidence in the ideas I’m jotting down by forcing me to keep them on the page. Something could seem clever one minute, then ridiculous, and then absolutely brilliant the day after––That is, if you hadn’t erased it the split second you found it ridiculous.

Prioritize.  One benefit of leaving those margins blank? They provide the perfect space for little organizational devices such as the three dot method.  At the top of each section, I draw one dot, two dots, or three dots, depending on how urgent that particular revision is.  Adding five entirely new chapters prior to what I thought was the beginning of the novel?  Three dots, for sure.  Having one of the protagonists lie awake in bed for a few extra minutes? Just one.

And those three tips are just the beginning.  So, if you’re in the midst of the revision process as well, or just considering it in the future, remember to shut your laptop and open up a notebook.  Your novel will thank you.

Until the next chapter…

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