BTS013, Lessons in Revising A Novella and a Goal Setting Update
At the start of January, I shared my revision plans for my thriller novella, Missing. It’s been a month since that show. So, I’ve decided to record this revision update show where I will break down what I achieved as well as four lessons I’ve learned over the first three weeks of revising a novella.
So, let’s get started.
BTS013, Lessons in Revising a Novella and a Goal Setting Update
A Quick Goals Update
Before we dive into the revision update and lessons learned, I want to share with you my progress towards achieving my writing goals for 2019. I’m going to start with the bad news. If I’m going to start a new podcast, I need to get more organised and find the time to record. Now that I’ve said that out loud, I’m wondering whether creating the Thriller Novel Nerd Podcast is the best way to achieve my goal of building a readership for my thrillers. I’ll ponder this some more and let you know my conclusions in a later episode of the podcast diary. But for now, I want to think about this and make a great decision instead of adding something to my list that might become a burden and distract me from writing.
The Good News
And now for the good news. I’ve hit my consistency goal for this podcast even though I had a minor tech hiccup and ended up releasing two episodes in one week; this is considered a success because I pushed through and made a better choice instead of accepting that I was now behind in my schedule and simply updating my content calendar accordingly. So, I’ve made some progress and learned from previous mistakes.
Learning from my Mistakes
That was until last week, where I left the recording of my podcast episode until the last minute. My husband had the day off which meant I could not record a podcast episode last week and stick to a Thursday release cycle. Changing the release day of the podcast would require me to let you know. And, the only way I could do that would be to release a special announcement show, and that would sit permanently in the podcast feed. So, in theory, someone could find that a year from now and be confused by the content of that show because it would no longer be relevant. And, I need to keep in mind that my podcast is evergreen.
Staying on Top of My Reading Goal
I’m also on track with my reading goal and read three books, this month. And, I’m also towards the end of a novel which means I’m almost one book ahead of schedule. This will leave room in case I fall a bit behind and no longer have to catch up because my reading goal for this year is significantly bigger. Yes, it’s larger. At least last year, I had room to slack off a bit, and I could catch up. Whereas, this year I feel like I may not be able to catch up if I fall behind.
Back to Email Marketing
In March last year, I dropped the ball with this weekly newsletter that I was sending out. I called it The Weekly, and it was a writing tip email that I would send out to subscribers. On Monday as I was listening to the most recent episode of The Creative Penn Podcast which was conveniently about email marketing, I decided that I was going to start this weekly email up again. Because I took action immediately, the weekly writing tip email will be sent out every Monday morning at 7:00 am EST. While we’re on the topic of email marketing, last Friday, I wrote, edited, and scheduled my first ever Behind The Scenes Author Update email. I’ve decided the email will be released on the last Wednesday of the month, at 8:00 pm GMT.
The reason why I chose those times was to give myself a deadline. So, I’m doing something consistently and don’t have to think about it too much. I craft the email then it gets sent out at that time. My point is, I’m trying to create habits around what I frequently do.
A Writing Update
And, based on the title of this show you can tell that I’ve spent time revising Missing this month. In terms of fingers on the keyboard moments, I’ve completed thirteen and a half hours of revision between January 11 and January 31, and I think the number of hours is a little more significant now, it’s coming close to fourteen or fifteen hours. I’m starting to get bored of working on my thriller novella, missing. There’s a part of me that doesn’t find the story interesting, and I’m starting to not like a few of the events in the story. I’m not sure if this is a consequence of working on this story for such a long time or if I need to go back and fix these moments. But I’m going to wait for feedback before making any decisions.
Thinking about Book Marketing
While we’re on the topic of getting my thrillers ready for publication, I’m still undecided as to whether I want to publish Missing and Silence as James Lalonde prequel series or duology and keep Immunity as a first in a new series featuring the same protagonist, James Lalonde. Or, include the prequel novels and Immunity as one series. The reason for my dilemma is because Immunity has a different dynamic to the prequel novels and the rest of the series from Immunity onwards. Between Silence and Immunity, James moves to New York and starts working at an internationally circulated newspaper. I need to figure this out before I hit publish, so I’ll keep you updated with my decision and further thoughts on this issue.
Let me be honest, I fell behind in my revision schedule and didn’t start revisions until January 11, which was a Friday. In light of this, I didn’t count that week as the first week. Most of the revisions for the official week one, happened on Thursday and Friday, instead of every weekday. I managed to complete seven hours of revision between those two days. Because I had fallen behind schedule, I chose to start with the plot related moments and scenes that needed rewrites overwriting brand new scenes. My reasoning behind this decision was I wanted to start with the plot elements that were easy, as a way of encouraging myself to start and continue revising.
What surprised me was I made multiple changes at once; changes to the setting, character thoughts, and plot all at once, instead of focusing on one thing at a time. As I went through my revision checklist, I found that I was continually adding new items as I was going through the list. What helped me avoid burnout was only paying attention to what needs to change in the scene I was working on, but moving tasks from Evernote, which is where my revision checklist was written, to Todoist. I use Todoist to manage my everyday tasks and to keep track of what I’ve done over the week. And, I made breaks to read between revision sessions to avoid creative burnout.
How I Revised
Over the three revision days between January 11 and January 18, I completed nine hours and forty-two minutes of revision time. I’m a bit of a spreadsheet nerd, and I recorded the start and finish times for my revision sessions. As a way of keeping the recordings accurate, any research was done before the session start time.
My focus for week two was a little different. I ended up revising Missing on Thursday. On Thursday, I added an extra 2,000 words to my word count by writing three new scenes. These new scenes were outlined then added to my outline because I was unhappy with the level of realism in my story.
After writing each scene, I performed line edits because I wanted to achieve a more polished revised draft. As I wrote these scenes, I did do research as I needed, but this was not included in the timed writing sprints, but the line-editing was included. So, for week two I spent three hours and forty-five minutes revising Missing, with breaks in between writing sessions.
The first revision session for week three started at 5:00 pm with me feeling fried. I was mentally exhausted. To counteract this feeling, I listened to the audiobook version of Bloodline by James Rollins. After I finished listening to a few chapters, I went back to my outline, and after much deliberation, I cut a new scene because it wasn’t integral to advancing the plot. I ended up cutting 566 words from the novella and adding an extra 344 words as I changed the setting of a scene.
The rest of this week had a focus on research and going back to the outline and making necessary tweaks. I ended up getting overwhelmed with the intricate details of writing a scene. So, how did I get to a place where I felt stuck? Upon reaching a new scene in my revision checklist, I realised that I hadn’t filled out all of the columns in my revised outline tab in my spreadsheet. As a result, I started researching global values and values shifts because I didn’t trust that I had this right in all of my other scenes.
Now that I’ve said this out loud, I realise this is a mindset issue. However, I find this also happens when I turn to a particular source of information. It’s almost as if my brain isn’t ready to handle all of that information on writing. This mindset issue might be coming from a place of insecurity in my writing ability because I’m also considering adding coaching or a course on outlining as an income stream in my business. I arrived at this overwhelming feeling, through research. So, you can get too much of a good thing.
In a Nutshell
I want to make this behind the scene diary beneficial for you, and I don’t want it to be all about me and my experiences. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I want to make it easier for you to get value from this update. With that pain in mind, I have to raise an important question. So, what are the most significant takeaways from my first three weeks of revising Missing?
Lesson #1 – I Didn’t Revise Every Day
For some reason, I planned on revising five days a week and things didn’t work out that way. But all of the revision hours that I completed were done over seven days. I found that even though I didn’t perform as expected, I was still productive. This leads me to wonder if I’m unrealistic by expecting me to write or revise every weekday. I guess this is the thing because you’re constantly told that in order to be successful you need to treat writing as a career; you need to be professional, and being professional means you have to write every day. And, I’m starting to think that’s not necessarily true, I think that’s too simplistic.
Lesson #2 – I Didn’t Follow My Plan
I initially decided to do multiple rounds of revisions focusing on one element at a time. Instead, I performed scene by scene revisions. Changes to plot, setting, and character thought were all completed simultaneously. This lesson is one of those things I wouldn’t have discovered if I didn’t try something. In the future, I will plan on making multiple passes because it leaves buffer time. So, what do I mean when I say buffer time? Buffer Time refers to those days that weren’t spent writing because life got in the way or I had too much work.
Lesson #3 – I Needed to Allow Time for Research
This is one thing that I did not account for in my revision checklist, and that was for further research. A few months ago I was fixating on the lack of realism in my thrillers, regarding a journalist searching for evidence. I now release that I have to look into a bit of police procedure in the United Kingdom. And, it’s something I have to include. There’s no way I can get around this. I now realise that I didn’t allow enough time for research which will mean that I need to push back my publishing deadline. There’s a part of me that thinks I can just put my head down and cram everything in and try to get it all done by the due date. But, I also want to be mindful of burnout because I have other books that I want to write this year.
Lesson #4 – I Needed to Trust in my Writing Ability
After writing three thrillers, it’s safe to say that I’ve learned something about writing. While I’m by no means booker prize worthy, I need to start having a little confidence in what I already know. Not having confidence in my writing ability have cost me time. As I alluded to earlier, this lack of confidence could also be related to me thinking about added one to one coaching services or a short course to my blog. Either way, this mindset is starting to chip away at my productivity. Now that I’m aware of this, I can take actionable steps to work on my mindset. So, I hope week four is going to be better in terms of mindset and productivity.
Are you about to start revising your novel? Or, are you currently revising a story? I want to hear from you. Let me know by sharing your experiences with revision in the comments section, or alternatively, you can tweet me at WriterADHay.
Thank you for listening, reading, commenting and sharing with such enthusiasm.
I’m Amelia. I write Mystery Novels under the pen name A. D. Hay. And, I’m the author of Missing, the first book in the James Lalonde series. On this blog, I help new writers to finish their first draft, prepare their manuscripts for professional editing, and when they get stuck in the first draft phase or are confused about the revision process. Right now, I’m editing and preparing my soon to be published mystery novels, Duplicity, 24 Hours, and Immunity for publication.