How to revise your manuscript without losing your mind

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Seriously, does anyone know how to do this? If you do, please tell me, because my mind done got lost about halfway through the process.

So, I’m done with draft 2 of a novel that is slowly, slowly inching towards readability. This is the first time I’ve ever revised a manuscript of this length instead of tossing the whole thing in the virtual trash and starting over fresh. This was the first time I ran into a whole new set of challenges as a writer:

  • I had no idea how to estimate how long it would take me to revise a manuscript. I set a deadline for the end of March, and ended up staggering over the finish line in the middle of May. I hate blowing deadlines, even self-imposed ones, even ones that were completely untenable from the get-go.
  • I didn’t have an easy way of charting my progress. I tried Pacemaker for a while, but it wasn’t nearly as visually exciting as the charts I made to track my rising word counts in years past. And that was part of the problem: I’m very motivated by watching a number counting up towards a complete manuscript, but I hate to see one counting down towards a deadline.
  • I also didn’t have a reliable way of quantifying how much effort I was pouring into my work. I breezed through many of the scenes in Act 1, making only minor tweaks, but I scrapped and rewrote a good chunk of Act 2 and the entirety of Act 3.

And there’s the rub: I rewrote a lot of this manuscript, but not always in massive chunks. A paragraph here, a few pages there, and it didn’t take long to lose track of how much of my word count was new. So, no pretty graphs this time. And no excerpts to post on the blog yet, either, because this sucker still needs a lot of work.

So what’s next? Some well-deserved rest, some tinkering with just-for-fun projects, and then I’ll jump back into the third draft towards the end of 2016. I plan on using this blog more actively, both for funny articles and for some shorter works of fiction that don’t need a massive multi-year editing process to smooth off those rough edges.

My editing process

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  1. Sit down
  2. Realize I should turn on computer
  3. Fiddle with every object around my writing space
  4. Turn on computer
  5. Wander away while computer is booting up
  6. Come back after computer has booted up and gone to sleep
  7. Jiggle mouse
  8. Jiggle mouse some more
  9. Impatiently turn monitor off and back on again
  10. Sign in
  11. Wander away while computer is logging in
  12. Come back to computer, stare at desktop, trying to remember what I was doing
  13. Open some folders
  14. Nope, just pictures of kittens I saved from the internet in there
  15. Remember that all my work is in Google Drive and wouldn’t be in any folder on my desktop
  16. Click browser shortcut
  17. Impatiently click browser shortcut 20 more times
  18. Computer freezes
  19. Wander away while computer is frozen
  20. Come back to find 20 browser windows open
  21. Consider navigating to Google Drive
  22. Checking Twitter real quick won’t hurt
  23. The world needs to know my feminist interpretation of Jurassic World in 140 character installments
  24. I wonder what Tumblr has to say about this
  25. Return from Tumblr fugue state two hours later
  26. Navigate through Google Drive to the folder where I saved my current project
  27. I should look at Facebook real quick, just in case I forgot any events I needed to be at two weeks from now
  28. Message friend “have you seen the new captain awkward, everyone is wrong about everything”
  29. Emerge from Facebook fugue state an hour later
  30. Check clock, decide it’s not too late to write something
  31. Open HabitRPG
  32. Stare at HabitRPG daily task “Write 100 words” real hard just in case it makes you feel inspired
  33. Try really, really hard to feel inspired
  34. Open document
  35. Bathroom break
  36. Tea break
  37. Vacuuming break
  38. Complain to boyfriend about how busy I am
  39. Another tea break
  40. Return to document
  41. Stare at document
  42. Tea break
  43. Teak break
  44. Tea break
  45. Slowly type exactly 100 words
  46. Suddenly get inspired, realize the solution that will fix all this story’s problems
  47. Realize it’s bed time

Repeat tomorrow

Word count 2015

It’s time for my annual attempt to count up every single word of fiction I wrote over the course of 365 days. This was a hard year to quantify, because I did a lot of revising/polishing/burning to the ground and rebuilding from the ashes of projects I put aside in 2014, and I didn’t keep a completely accurate tally of how many new words I added to old manuscripts. I also had more side projects, which I picked up and put down whenever I felt like it.

This year was also a rough one for me personally, and I had to come to terms with the fact that there were times when I was tired and stressed and pushing myself to write more fiction would lead to burnout. I also got a new job (awesome!) with a huge writing component (super awesome!) but didn’t include those words in my count.

Total Word Count, 2015

word count total 2015

Not bad, considering! I wasn’t quite as productive on paper as I was in 2014, but I moved several manuscripts closer to an actually readable state.

Words per week, 2015

words per week 2015

Ok, here’s the part where I should have kept better track of what I was doing. I worked on five distinct projects in 2015, but only recorded weekly word counts for one set of revisions and one new novel. Some of the weeks when my word count appears to fall to zero are weeks when I actually didn’t do any writing, but others were weeks when I was working on something I didn’t track.

Total Word Count by Project, 2015

total word count by project 2015

Again, I only tracked the revisions and the novel. They both have roughly the pattern I like to see progress-wise (a nice rising slope without too many plateaus).

So, what’s next for 2016? A whole lot more words on the page, but more importantly, at least one draft in finished form. I’d like to begin serializing the novel here some time in.

Previous years’ word counts: 2013, 2014

Christmas gifts for the child you wish to disappoint

All images are straight from AliExpress.com, your one stop shop for items off the back of the truck and items that appear to have been run over by the truck.

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“Have you seen that movie, How to Ride your Dragon? I thought it was just the cutest, the way the dragon waddles around slowly growing larger until it crushes the village.”

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“You still play that Morio Siblings game with the racing and the pipes and the stripper princess, right?”

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“Hey, wasn’t this the movie with that boy you like?”

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“Game of Thrones, was that the one with the spider who turns into a man and goes to the prom?”