In his book Plot & Structure, James Scott Bell mentions Sol Stein's technique for revision. It's called the triage method, where you work from the big issues down to the small.
The dictionary states "Triage is used on the battlefield, at disaster sites, and in hospital emergency rooms when limited medical resources must be allocated."
I get it: first draft = disaster. This reduces the pressure to make the first draft a beautiful, perfect thing. Now that we know it will be a disaster, how do we fix it? Bell suggests tackling revisions in this order:
- Let it cool. Bell suggests two or three weeks.
- Get mentally prepared. Bell recommends thinking of revision as getting to take the test over and over again, improving our grade along the way.
- Read it through. This is where Bell mentions triage. Start the revision looking for overall story and structure, then read it again for small details.
- Brood over what you've done. Bell suggests we think about our draft for five to seven days. Jot down notes.
- Write the second draft.
- Refine. Set it aside for a week, then read through it again to ensure character, plot, scenes and theme are the way we want them.
- Polish. Check for hook, chapter endings, action & reaction, and grammar.
Bell quotes Ray Bradbury. "Let your characters have their way. Let your secret life be lived. Then at your leisure, in the succeeding weeks, months or years, you let the story cool off and then, instead of rewriting, you relive it."
Ahhh, relive it. I like that. Now, off to create my own disaster!
What techniques do you use when revising your manuscript?