Reverse Outlining and Magic Post Its, A Craft of Writing Post by Katherine Locke
Revisions are hard and overwhelming and it’s easy to feel like you haven’t fixed anything, or that you’ve broken the book. It’s a little like playing Jenga on a sand dune. But with the right methods, I think revision doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it often feels. As someone who really believes books are born in revisions, I’ve found that knowing my revision plan helps me find the book I set out to write. And today I’m going to share my revision methods so you can use them or tweak them to your own process and get started!
I think many writers forget that while we share a common storytelling medium in the written word, we all learn and process differently. I’m an extremely poor auditory learner, but I’m a highly visual and kinesthetic learner. I struggled with revisions for a long time because working in a large document felt very overwhelming, cumbersome and confusing. I couldn’t get a sense of what exactly I was doing.
When I changed how I approach revisions, I not only sped up my revision process, but my revisions felt like they were actually working for me. I think that’s key! Your process produces results: if your process is flawed or not working for you, then your results will be less than satisfactory.
My revision process involves many passes, but two primary steps: reverse-outlining with notecards and my magic post-it method.
Reverse outlining means that I write down the events of the story as they exist in the draft. Not what was on my outline, not what I thought I was going to write, not what I already know I need to add, but what actually exists.
In this process, I use the “But” and “Therefore” method of checking my scenes, pacing, and tension. I learned this from a neat tip online [LINK] from the South Park writers and it’s been life changing! The words “But” or “Therefore” should exist (unspoken, unwritten) between each scene or beat of your story. NOT the words “And Then.”
I go through and handwrite the transition word on the bottom corner of my index cards…and if I can’t, I rotate the card so I know I need to come back to it. It means that scene is either in the wrong place, needs more tension/information to make it useful, or it needs to be cut completely. This little trick has helped my chronic pacing/tension issues enormously in the last eight months I’ve been using it!
Having scenes on notecards makes it easier for me to move things around, decide on new order, delete scenes, tighten up plot issues, and find plot holes. Then I can go into my draft and work on the issues. I keep the notecards around until I’m down to copy-edits or just doing a copy-editing type of pass for my agent/editor.
My second revision tool is the magic post-it method. It comes from a very simple philosophy: a writer in motion stays in motion. But it can be so hard to get into motion when it comes to revisions, especially if you have a lot of revisions ahead of you. It’s really easy to feel overwhelmed and not know where to start. Trust me, I’m sympathetic to this issue!
So now, when I have my reverse outline and I can see the problems, I take a big sketchpad and a bunch of bright colored post-its and I make a list. Everything I need to fix gets its own post it and I put it on the big sketchpad.
As I go through and deal with one issue at a time, I tear off the post-it and throw it out. It’s motivating to see the list literally getting smaller and the bright colors keep you pepped up. Or that might be all the caffeine you’re consuming. Who knows.
Revisions are critical, and learning how you revise best is a really important part of being a writer. I find that every book requires a different method for a first draft, at least for me, but my revision plan is always the same. It calms my anxiety, gives me a roadmap, and I can go from there. I hope this was helpful to you!
I hope you too discover your book as you play Jenga in the sand.
About the Book:
It took all of Aly's strength to get them back after a tragic accident ripped them from her six years ago. A long road to recovery led to her return, dancing full-time for the District Ballet Company and carrying Zed's child. But Aly is slipping. Each day becomes a fight to keep her career from crumbling under the weight of younger talent, the scrutiny of the public eye and the limitations of her ever-changing body. A fight she fears she's losing.
I'm scared Aly is broken to her core
Zed recognizes the signs, but he doesn't know how to fix her. The accident left him with his own demons, and while he wants nothing more than to take care of the woman he loves, it's getting harder the farther downward she spirals. When Aly's life is threatened and Zed's injuries prevent him from saving her, he's never felt so useless, so afraid he's not capable of being the man Aly and their child needs.
With new life comes new hope. And with their fractured lives already hanging by a thread, Aly and Zed must discover if they have what it takes—both together and apart—to rebuild and carry on.
Book Two of the District Ballet Company
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About the Author:
Second Position, came out in April from Carina Press and the sequel, Finding Center, releases on Monday, August 17th. You can find her at @bibliogato on Twitter and KatherineLockeBooks.com
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-- posted by Susan Sipal @HP4Writers