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Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 30, 2011

I’ve finished the first draft of my WIP, a new mystery. Whereas in the old days, 300 pages equaled 75,000 words based on Courier font, 25 lines per page, and about 10 words per line, nowadays we have word processors with more accurate word counts. Now my 300 pages comes in at less than 70,000 words. Oops. What to do? Add new material as I approach revisions. I’d planned to do this anyway, strengthening my heroine’s motive for solving the murder while perhaps introducing a new subplot thread that can carry over into sequels. Plus I’ll be adding more descriptive details based upon my on-going research as described below.

So far this strategy is working. I’ve gone through the first five chapters and added three new pages to date. Then again, as I revise, I’m cutting out extraneous material. Uh, oh. Will I end up with less than my expected word count again? It was nice in the earlier days of publishing when we could estimate 250 words per page. Now we have a higher standard to meet.

I’m making a lot of changes as I edit through the chapters. After the revelations that happen later in the story, I have to go back and made modifications accordingly. For example, it appears there may be a closer connection between my sleuth and the victim than was originally apparent. So in any interactions with the deceased’s family, I need to bring up this subject.

I’ve also learned more about powerboats and the proper terminology, so I’ll be making those corrections as I go along. And I need to tone down my heroine where she sounds snippy and make her kinder toward her mother. Now that I know her better, I have to alter some of her insights about the suspects. So I am modifying dialogue, deleting repetitive/unnecessary passages, adding character details, correcting boating terms, plus the usual revisions like switching passive voice to active, using action verbs, getting rid of gerunds, smoothing transitions etc.

This process takes time and cannot be rushed. It’ll take me at least two rounds before the story is where I want it to go, but it will be much improved. Then I’ll have a story of which I can be proud.

Do you revise as you go along, or save all the corrections until your first draft is complete?


7 Responses to “Revisions”

  1. M. E. Kemp said

    I write my first draft in longhand – I need to see the words on paper, and I do a little revision as I write, but as soon as I put the ms on computer I do my editing there. To me that’s the computer’s function. (That and email.)

  2. Word processing has sure made revisions easier, hasn’t it?

  3. Jeanne Meeks said

    I love the word count feature now that my book is “finished” and revisions have begun. Keeps the length in the correct range.
    In the middle of writing the novel, I use revisions to get me going for the day…to rev up my writing juices.

  4. Yes, Jeanne, that’s a good way to get in the swing of writing for the day.

  5. I have to revise after or I’d never get the manuscript done.

  6. nelle said

    Revisions and editing seem to be a way of life! It is interesting to read of how others write, the methodology they employ. When I write, I too have a better feel on characters by the end, after all, I have been immersed in their lives and their world through the story creation. The characters in the early stages of a rough draft are tentative, a fuzzy blur of my imagining bereft of three dimensions and colour. I do not write with an outline, preferring free form for a good deal of the way, until the story forms up and firms up in my mind. This means going back and reworking beyond the usual editing, bringing those early characters up to the full vision achieved later, plus reworking it all for consistency. If a change is obvious, I’ll rework an older element right away. Otherwise, I will work it over at or near the end.

    There are times when I need a break from creating, but still itch to work the story. In those times I will go back and read from the beginning, sort of like studying for a class exam, learning and understanding more, remembering more, helping me build the final vision.

    For the technical, I use Word to write, and set it to Times New Roman, 14 point font. That seems to give a good approximation of page size.

  7. Thanks for sharing, Nelle. It’s so true that we know our characters better by the end and then have to go back to fill in the details during the polishing process. I do work with a synopsis, and I’m going to have to modify it according to the changes I’ve made in the storyline. Ugh. That’s not a task I enjoy. Interesting that you use TNR 14 pt. I use Courier 12 pt. I find Courier easier on the eyes for reading but hadn’t though of increasing the font size otherwise.

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