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MG writers: revision tips?

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So, I finished a rough draft of a nearly 34,000 word MG novel. Go me!

Thing is, I don't really know how to go about revising.  I figure I should let it sit for awhile and work on other things . . . but then what?  How do other people start the process of revising? I've been working mostly on picture books up until now, and they are so short that they can be completely rewritten more easily than a longer work can. Do most people who write MG revise an entire draft at a time and then send it to a beta reader? Or do you revise chapter by chapter? Or both?

I'm sure there are many different approaches, so I'd love to hear what works for different people.
#1 - July 30, 2018, 09:05 PM

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If you want to feel overwhelmed look at http://blog.janicehardy.com/2015/02/at-home-workshop-revise-your-novel-in.html
It's a 31-day step-by-step revision process.




#2 - July 31, 2018, 07:26 AM

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That's really helpful, David Wright. Might be a good thing to try.
#3 - July 31, 2018, 07:54 PM

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I start big picture and work my way down. So first I write my overall goal for the manuscript) why I wrote it. Then my logline: a one sentence pitch. Then I outline by noting each scene within each chapter and what they are about. I'll note anything that doesn't fit my reason or logline. I'll also note anything that doesn't do one of these things: move the story forward, establish setting, establish character or develop character and relationships, relate to the conflict, contain sensory data or emotion, stay true to POV. (This is off the top of my head and could have more added.) Ideally each scene does a bunch of these and every scene stays in POV. Any scene that isn't carrying its own weight may be cut or combined with another scene.

I also look for characters who only appear once and ask myself if another character can play that role. Every character has to pull it's weight too.

Once I've revised, I redo the outline and look for a main them in each scene. These often show up as themes for the work. I can build on them once I recognize them.

From here it's about finding the best words for each sentence and moving to the crit group, who will inevitably tell me that I don't have enough setting and my emotion isn't clear.
#4 - July 31, 2018, 08:52 PM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
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After letting the ms rest for a few days, my technique is to revise as thoroughly and carefully as I can, and then I copy the revision to a flash drive and bring it to Staples (or similar office/copy store) to print. I request that it be printed on the front and back of each page, like a book, and spiral bound (not the glued-flat binding, it will fall apart). The cost is about $25 and gives me a chance to pencil-edit and make sweeping cuts and move things around, spot overly descriptive passages that are bogging down the pace, etc. Then I go back and add the edits into the screen version of the ms and read again/revise, before sending to trusted CPs and beta readers.

I’m amazed at the deeper level of editing and the elements that pop out when I read my own ms as a hard-copy! It’s almost like reading my own work with completely fresh eyes.

Best wishes!
 :star2
#5 - August 01, 2018, 07:08 AM
Ten Clever Ninjas (picture book, Clear Fork Publishing, 2019)
Butterfly Girl (middle grade novel, Clear Fork Publishing, 2019)

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If you scroll up and look under the topic 'Craft of Writing' there are a lot of discussions there. You may be able to glean things from certain threads of interest. Here is one about favorite books on writing, that may be helpful to you. I write MG and YA and when I revise I don't just think of the age group - though age appropriateness is a factor to remember when revising - but I also look at the overall picture of reworking a novel: pulling together any loose plot threads, pacing, etc.  Good luck.

https://www.scbwi.org/boards/index.php?topic=73158.0
#6 - August 01, 2018, 07:51 AM
ROYALLY ENTITLED (inspirational/historical YA) and OOPS-A-DAISY (humorous MG) out now.  http://www.melodydelgado.com/

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Part of how you revise depends on how you rough draft. Some people have lots of words and scenes to cut, while others have lots of scenes to flesh out. My rough drafts are almost unreadable to anyone but me. I have an outline and well developed sense of where I want to go and how I want to get there as well as themes and characters, but if I come to a difficult conversation to write while I am rough drafting, I might just write Conversation between A and B about C, and then move on.

I hate rough drafts, so I don't want to run the risk of loosing forward momentum by getting bogged down in a difficult spot. OTOH, I like to revise. For others, the opposite is true. It is all so personal. Look at what others do, and then figure out what works for you. Personally, I do many drafts, starting with the big picture and narrowing to line edits. The first chapter gets revised about twice as many times as other parts of the ms.

Good luck and congratulations on getting this far.
#7 - August 01, 2018, 08:15 AM

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What everyone above said is correct. It is personal, and it takes some experience to find how you work best. If you are experienced in PB writing and revising, you might take some of what you have learned about your process to a novel. The only difference is the time invested in each draft and thus, proportionally, the time between revisions.


Speaking for myself, the first draft is a plow forward. I'm a combination planner and a bit of a panster, too. (This means I have a very thin outline before I even start, but the fleshing out is done by the seat of my pants, as the saying goes.) First drafting is the reason I am a writer, and for me the rest is the necessary work to make it better. As Pons said, some love one part and not the other. It's a somewhat different set of problem solving.


I don't even go near a novel for a minimum of two weeks between drafts. Two months is better. By "drafts” I am not referring to tweaks and repairing an inconsistency here and there. I mean substantial changes and meeting the phrasing with fresh eyes, more like a reader than a writer.

The first two real drafts are done with me alone. No one even hears what it's about. I have a lot to work out before I feel "I've got something there."

Third draft comes after my first beta reader reads and gives developmental comments, points out inconsistencies, (Thank you, Ev!) and catches typos. I go over the feedback carefully. Sometimes other matters arise for me while doing this. When done, a full re-read after another break, and then a second beta reader. I look for a reader who might be different from the first in many ways, and when their feedback returns I mull over that in a similar way. Then another break, another read-through, and then I have my own checklist to make sure I have asked myself  if I am clear about the theme, the foreshadowing, character development/change, MC solving the problem (or coming to terms with it) and so on.
Another read-through, mysteriously catching *even more* typos...  :booboo and then it goes to my agent who suggests things to make it stronger. So this means another revision, sometimes two.


As to the mechanics of "how," you really only have your reading ways and your reading eyes. It will not be different from the way you have worked on shorter picture book texts. ButterfyGirl mentioned hard copy printed like a book. This is a good technique for many. Not what I use, but I know it helps. There are some techniques for line editing and I seem to remember our own Harold Undedown is about to offer a free webinar addressing that.


But never feel you must write many drafts, (Stephen King does only three, but to say he's experienced is an understatement) or that what someone else says is a must really is for your way of working. Some writers are very clean grammatically and phasing-wise, and some (like me) can never get rid of all the typos no matter how many times we go over the words.
#8 - August 01, 2018, 04:24 PM
THE VOICE OF THUNDER, WiDo Publishing
THERE'S A TURKEY AT THE DOOR, Hometown520

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Thanks, everyone -- this is all really helpful. I used to try writing novels when I was teenager/college student, but I don't think I ever really revised them. I'd dash them off, then do light editing for grammar and spelling, if anything. (I think the joy was in drafting, so a lot of times I just put the story aside when I was done.)  Really doing revision on a longer story is new to me, even though I've done it with short fiction and picture books before.

What I know from working on picture books is that I'm one of the people who loves writing first drafts and hates revision. For me, hacking out a first draft of a story is usually easy and fun. It's seeing what's wrong and fixing it that is hard for me.
#9 - August 01, 2018, 08:25 PM

I find reading aloud to be helpful - you can really hear the parts that aren't working or that don't sound true to your characters' voices.
#10 - August 02, 2018, 11:30 AM
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2019, Say What You Mean (MG)
2018, Talking to the Moon (MG)
2018, A Halifax Time-Travelling Tune (PB)

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I find reading aloud to be helpful - you can really hear the parts that aren't working or that don't sound true to your characters' voices.

Yes, that. Some feel that having someone else read aloud to them their own writing is even better, if you dare be so exposed at this stage of working. I only managed to do this with PBs.
#11 - August 02, 2018, 11:36 AM
THE VOICE OF THUNDER, WiDo Publishing
THERE'S A TURKEY AT THE DOOR, Hometown520

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Yes, that. Some feel that having someone else read aloud to them their own writing is even better, if you dare be so exposed at this stage of working. I only managed to do this with PBs.

In my old critique group in WA, we read each other's work aloud and it's so very helpful to listen and take notes.

And here's a story checklist from way back when: http://www.secretsofstory.com/2011/08/ultimate-story-checklist.html
#12 - August 02, 2018, 03:38 PM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
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If you use Word, you can have your computer read to you too. For 2013 or newer it's easy: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Using-the-Speak-text-to-speech-feature-459e7704-a76d-4fe2-ab48-189d6b83333c [older versions of Word require a bit of programming]

Then you just highlight the section you want read and press the button. It's monotone, but it's great for finding the places where you read what you expect to be there rather than what's actually there.
#13 - August 03, 2018, 06:11 AM

Setting it aside for a few weeks makes a HUGE difference for me. It's the best way for me to see what's really on the page instead of what's in my head. Also sending the manuscript to your Kindle is a good way to see it in a different light. I usually start at the beginning and do a full revision and then start working through with my crit group before sending the full to any beta readers.

Also, if your're interested in contests and getting outside help, Pitch Wars usually starts in August. https://pitchwars.org/  (Looks like the 15th this year.) This contest taught me everything about big picture revision!
#14 - August 06, 2018, 05:20 AM

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