This morning I was able to attend an online webinar titled “Summer School 2: Learning to Love Revision,” which was hosted by The Writer magazine (and sponsored by ProWritingAid). Our presenter was Nicki Porter, who is the Senior Editor at the The Writer magazine. I really enjoyed the webinar and decided to share some of my impressions here with you today.
First, I was especially interested in this webinar because I’ve spent the last nine months (ouch! has it really been that long?) attempting to self-edit the manuscript of my novel Timelines.
As my fellow writers know, editing your own work is hard. Really, really hard. I’m currently on the sixth draft and I’ve lost count of how many hours that I’ve spent working on it. Yet, it still feels far from complete. I still don’t feel confident enough about the work to share it with other readers. My current plan is to release a “Beta Reader” Edition of the novel sometime this year. The catch is that I keep postponing releasing it since it doesn’t feel “ready.”
Nicki Porter’s presentation was around 45 minutes long and then she finished up by offering a Q and A session for participants. She offered some really good advice as well as concrete things that we can do to improve our drafts. I especially liked how approachable she sounded. She emphasized that editing requires a lot of work and that we, as writers, need to be willing to sit down in our chairs and do the work. However, she maintained a positive attitude, and I felt “nurtured” by her tutoring. I also liked that she provided several different approaches and emphasized that everyone is different. Different writers will thrive using different approaches to writing and editing.
I finished the webinar this morning feeling really motivated. One thing that I got from the presentation is that I’m on track. Many of the things that Nicki Porter recommended were things that I was already doing. This made me feel much more confident about my current editing project. It turns out that the discouragement that I’ve been feeling seems to be based on my misconception that the editing is taking “too long.” But, based on today’s presentation, it sounds like I’m actually on track. Yes, the editing process is taking longer than expected; but, the time has been well spent. With every draft, my story has been getting better.
For those of you that are interested in concrete details, Nicki Porter began by talking about the two types of editing that every manuscript needs: Line Edits and Development Edits. She describes the first as “cleaning and polishing” (looking for typos, misplaced punctuation, etc) and the latter as “layering and building” (character motivation, pacing, plot holes, world building).
She emphasized the need to learn how to look at our writing analytically. She recommended practicing reviewing everything we read or watch with a “critical eye” to see what works or doesn’t work and then using these observations to improve our own work.
During the presentation, Nicki Porter also discussed three different strategies for reviewing our writing, building our “revision toolkit,” and not worrying about sometimes having to cut large sections of text from our drafts (“killing your darlings”).
One particular bit of advise that she provided– and I intend of trying later today– was “Color-Code Your Draft.” This method will help with pacing and creating a balanced draft. The basic idea was to go through your manuscript and use different colored highlighters. For example: highlight all of your dialogue in yellow, action in blue, setting in pink, backstory in purple, etc. Then, go back through your draft to see which colors are dominant and which ones are barely present. This can reveal problems with the draft. If you’ve got large chunks of backstory and very little action for instance.
The “Summer School 2: Learning to Love Revision” webinar was free to attend. It was the second of three that The Writer magazine will be hosting this summer. For those that are interested, you can sign up to receive email notifications from the magazine. A recording of today’s presentation (along with Nicki Porter’s slide presentation) will be available soon on the magazine webpage:
Okay, I hope that you’ll find this information and helpful as I did. Now to roll up my sleeves and get back to editing Timelines… happy writing (and editing!) everyone!
~ H. S. Contino
PS– “Bonus Content”– Below is a preview of my current cover design. What do you think? Feel free to provide feedback in the comments section!