Another Way to Revise
When it comes time to revise, people approach it differently. They set a goal of 50 pages a day, or work chapter-by-chapter.
I’d like to suggest a different way – working scene-by-scene.
Chapters often have more than one scene in them; or, sometimes, a scene can run for several chapters. But, if you thoroughly deal with each scene before moving to the next one, you’ll find you need to go back over it and re-revise it less often.
Read the scene through, without allowing yourself to make any changes or notes. See if you can live in the scene completely.
Read it through again, this time taking notes and making corrections.
Go over it for the basics – grammar, spelling, sentence structure. Have you left participles dangling out of carelessness, or because it’s part of the character’s speech rhythm? Is there a way to tighten the dialogue? Are there extra phrases/sentences that seemed to work in the natural rhythm of the piece when you first wrote it, but now slow it down? Are there points where you’ve speeded up and skipped over bits to “put it in later” in order to get to another part of the scene that pulled at you more strongly?
Well, this is “later”. Time to make those fixes.
Does every incident in the scene reveal something about the characters and/or move the story forward? Sometimes it doesn’t seem to be a plot incentive, but will reveal something important about the character that allows the plot incentive to work later.
When you’re sure that the scene is the best it can be, then you move on.
It’s a slower method of revision than some of the others, because it means going back over the scene again and again and again.
But, because in the final product, each scene is a building block in the whole structure, polishing scene by scene will help you get the piece Trusted Reader-ready and submission-ready in fewer drafts.
To live within each scene with your characters during the revision while simultaneously keeping the objective eye to the craft is easier to do within the context of a scene than in the context of, say, fifty pages.
Some days you’ll only be able to rework a single scene; sometimes you will manage two or three. But the point of it is to do it as completely as you can before moving on.