Your revision process

As I draft my chapters, I get a bit torn between going back to revise each chapter as soon as I finish them and waiting to finish the first draft of the entire manuscript before going back to revise.

What do you do?

A blend of both methods?

Either can have equal validity, I think.

But personally, to maintain one’s own morale and a sense of dynamism in one’s writing, I think dallying and poring over what one’s just written is probably not a good idea. And also may be a waste of time and effort if at the end of the draft one decides to chop out whole chunks of carefully revised verbiage. Better to leave revision until one has a fully completed draft to revise. In writing, speed can be almost as important as quality.

tmanasa wrote:
What do you do? A blend of both methods?

A)Revise each chapter as you finish it.
B)Dont even think about revising until youve completed your first draft.
C)Ignore all advice about revision.

If the words are flowing from the brain to the page, keep writing. If at the end of the day, you reread what youve written, the world wont tilt on its axis if you highlight a section you`re a bit iffy about, making it easier to revisit on completion, half way through or at the end of the week.

If your saga morphs into something you hadnt intended when you wrote this or that scene, youre gonna have to go back anyway, and tinker or cut. The more you familiarise yourself with any flies in the ointment, the easier it`s gonna be to correct, I would have thought.

If you find yourself in the position of agonising over whether to or not, reread what you`ve written while deciding what to do. :wink:

Like the man said just do what whatever works for you.

I was a compulsive fiddler-rewriter for a while but I consider it a bad habit, at least for me.

I found a good solution. I named some highligher colours as follows:

Screen shot 2010-11-07 at 02.40.15.png

Now I write (although I do tend to do a bit of ‘on the fly’ adjusting as I create the first draft) and then at the end of each session, when it’s vaguely what I want, I just mark the sections accordingly for later.

It’s amazing how often you can go back a day or two later and just ‘see’ a better way of writing something and this method unlocks that capability for me.


Thanks for your responses. I think I will go with finishing the first draft of the manuscript before diving back into the individual chapters.

I will try using the highlighting of keeping track of what to revise.

I wonder if there is a way to create dynamic Collections that pick up documents with particular highlights present in them…

No, the find by formatting tools are all step based, not gather based. The back-end just isn’t set up for that. Indexing the text content of your project is fast because it completely drops all formatting. There isn’t a formatting index, so any thorough searching of the project for such elusive things as an RGB value would take a long time indeed. :slight_smile: Consequently, the tool steps through the project. A technical hurdle would have to be overcome for true gather by formatting to be possible (and thus dynamic collections).

You might approach the problem from a different angle. Rather than using highlight colours for stuff like this, I’ve always used annotations with a prefix code. I just make a little annotation next to the problem spot, and then prefix it with something indicating the type of problem. It’s a trick I picked up while reading the special edition eBook of Vernor Vinge’s book, A Deepness in the Sky. The idea is to put something like, "SCI: " in the annotation, and then a comment on what is potentially wrong if necessary. “SCI” means “Fact check this/scientifically invalid/etc”.

Now, because that sequence is somewhat unique, and because it is text, it can be easily searched for using Scrivener’s existing features. Just search for "SCI: ", and throw it into a collection called “Fact Check”. Because they are all embedded into annotations, it’s easy to find them within the search result with the Find by Formatting tool.

This is the way I’ve been working in Scrivener since day one. In the past I’d use that convention in the annotation finder, by typing in “SCI:” into the selection scope and then step through. I could still do that, but now I can benefit from collections as well.

The other advantage, especially for RTF usage, is that you don’t have to go all over the place stripping out your codes later on. Highlighters will end up in your compiled document, which might not be what you want at all. Annotations, on the other hand, can be globally eradicated from the compile with a single checkbox, without actually disturbing them in the project.

So what about workflow? Another page from Vinge, I put a single punctuation mark in front of the indicator tag itself. There are only a few of them, to keep things simple, but “~SCI:” means it’s still a problem but wouldn’t be the death of the book if it never got fixed. “=SCI:” means it is fixed; and “!SCI:” means, oi, fix it because it is really awful! :slight_smile: So your smart searches can be updated to include this punctuation mark, if you wish. Now when you fix something you can just throw an “=” in front of it and it vanishes from the collection. Another option, of course, is to just delete the annotation once the problem is resolved. I like to keep them in place for a while, so a status mark is useful. They usually get wiped once a snapshot is taken.

Nice, Ioa! I love that technique! Thanks for the in-depth explanation. I’m going to put it to use right away.


I do not tell you how you should work, as I am not you.
I can only tell you how I have been working on a single novel for 35 years, without having the right to make it more than a kind of hobby for when there’s really nothing else to do.

1/ Write what you like to write
2/ Write how you like to read
3/ Write what you like to read
4/ Work on it, until you love it and do not have anything to change on it
5/ And NEVER work on something you do not “feel” at that moment : your work would not be the best

In the end, I was ashame to compare my work to another one, I do definitely consider as the greatest of all. (Won’t even say which, I’m ashame.)
Until now, I never published it: It still needs something I do not yet possess.

The lifecycle of a chapter for me is as follows:

  1. Initial concept of what I want to ‘achieve’ in the chapter - 1-2 sentances.
  2. A spider diagram brainstorm of things to cover - especially if I’m writing humour.
  3. This is turned into a linear structure on the computer, mainly in bullet point form to give a framework for writing.
  4. I write individual sections and snippets in a notebook based on the above structure.
  5. These are then compiled into an electronic version, updating bits based on the re-read.
  6. I review and amend the chapter for spelling, grammar, use of English.
  7. I review and amend the chapter for general structure (moving paras etc) and rework to make it more readable, improve flow, and any “out of character” slip ups for the protagnists.
    <Note - at this point the chapter is should be able to pass the embarrassment test if I was to let someone read it, albeit if the content might look nothing like the final version. In my head I view this as my “first draft”, although in reality it’s been written once on paper, again on a computer and then reviewed twice.>
  8. I then move on to the next chapter and do repeat the steps above until I have a complete “Part”. This may be 7-10 chapters long but is essentially defined by the conveient story blocks.
  9. I then review the Part as a whole (accidental pun). This review will pick up anything and everything once more. I’ll look at continuity, characterisation, pacing and ‘feel’. I’ll also fix bits here that I’ve decided to switch. Eg, if in Chap 3 I decide it would be better / funnier if the protagnoist was a different profession, this is when I’d go back and bring the earlier chapters up to speed on the change. I’ll also use this point to do a bit more reseach on descriptions that I’d bluffed first time round (eg, if I’ve described a building or street that exists in real life, without actually looking at photos, visiting etc).
  10. If it’s the first Part in a new novel, I may share this part for external feedback with a few friends for overarching commentary etc.
  11. I’ll do the above process for the all the Parts until I have a novel. At this point it will be the first ‘true’ complete draft.
  12. I’ll ignore it now for quite a while - perhaps a month.
  13. I’ll reread and make notes in pen on a printed draft. I’ll do this in a loop until I’m happy.
  14. Trusted friends are then invited to comment on the novel.
  15. Update comments as appropriate.
  16. I’ll reread and make notes in pen on a printed draft. I’ll do this in a loop until I’m happy.
  17. Stop.

It turns out that (purely on a step count basis) having an idea is under 6% of writing a novel. Well, for me, anyway.

I think Holly Lisle’s One-Pass Revision is an excellent to-do list and guide.

I’m new to writing, but here’s what I’ve found works for me:

  1. Initial plotting, characters, and their world. Not too much though, otherwise I get bogged down.

  2. Write the first draft quickly, with minimal editing. I regard this draft as an exploration, a means of learning about my characters and their world. Hopefully when it’s done, I have a good idea about the story I want to tell.

  3. When it’s finished, I put it away for a while and work on something else.

  4. Revise the story. At this stage, I often use layering and texturing (ie, working on dialogue; action; setting; other character’s reactions to POV character’s thoughts, internal dialogue & emotion; sensuality & description, including sexual tension where appropriate).

  5. When it’s near completion, I use the Text To Speech function to listen to it. This way I can pick up typos and get a feel for the story’s flow and how natural the dialogue sounds. Hearing it spoken in a mechanical voice is a big help.