MERC vs. BOOK: Revising a Novel, Part 4–Speedbumps and Flexibility


K.M. Szpara is chronicling his process from getting an agent to novel revisions on his blog, and I encourage you to check it out–he has a kickass novel and the revision tactics (and gossipy stories) he shares are really cool. 🙂

Other posts in this series:

Part 0Part 1  | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 [you are here] | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7.1 & 7.2 | Part 8 | Part 9


I’ve tagged writing updates with #MercWritesABook on twitter, for those interested in following along!


Screenshot 2016-07-13 11.18.01
Progress page!

(I really like myWriteBuddy for tracking goals.)

So once I was about 3k into new material, I ran into a snag. While I know that a critical scene is in Bane’s POV, and needs to be there, I have not written it yet. It is a compilation of several different scenes in the first draft, and needs to be pulled together and fleshed out to serve its true purpose.

My original intent had been to write all of Winterblade’s scenes first, sew them into the draft, and then revise the whole thing. But it turns out that won’t work. If I don’t have this pivotal scene in place (where Bane and WB meet), then I don’t have a good frame of reference for how future scenes will unfold.

There seemed to be two options: 1.) write extensive notes and power through, potentially making more work in the long run, or 2.) make a detour to avoid the construction backup, and thus continue to make good time on this writing-trip.

There were definitely periods of younger!Merc’s life where they would have chosen option 1 out of pure stubbornness. And probably some convoluted rationale that would just provided more headaches later on.

Now!Merc, however, is much more interested in getting things done fast with as little stress as feasible.

I want to make this as easy on myself. So I decided to be flexible.

Step 1: Acknowledge that there is a traffic jam in the process. 

In my case, I know what I need (words!) but there are obstacles to getting what I want (…words).

I want to keep up my momentum (which I find easier to do when immersed in a specific voice), but I don’t want to add to the workload of having to rewrite massive sections of material a second time around–not when I could get it right the first time.

Time to strategize.

Step 2: Plot a new route.

Here’s what I did: I made a nifty bracketed scene holder in the middle of my ‘Winterblade POV’ document (I’m writing in a plain text file for minimal distraction) that looked like this.

pretty typical bracketed note for me…

Fortunately, I have enough sticky notes in my printed manuscript that guides the direction of this needs-to-be-added scene. So I’m not worried about losing the voice while switching POVs.

And when I get back into WB scenes, I will have the benefit of knowing what the hell I wrote in the meeting scene so I can move forward easier!

Step 3: Scrivener

I’ve dabbled with the program Scrivener before. I’ve heard many people extol its virtues, have also heard from people for whom it does not work, and have now decided to put it through its paces on assembling novelage. Because there will be a bunch of rearranging going on (per my To Do list in Part 1 of this series) I need a program that can handle large amounts of text, organize it, and allow me to shuffle it around as needed…without me getting entirely lost.

(Fun fact: I used Scrivener to organize a ‘found footage’ style superhero novelette I sold to Lightspeed earlier this year–and lemme tell you, “Later, Let’s Tear Up the Inner Sanctum” was an epic exercise in originational formatting! That test gave me faith that Scrivener could handle the workload.)

So I created a new project and made a bunch of folders. Then came MISSION: LABEL ALL THE THINGS!


(I love labeling things.)


A reason I like drafting in plain-text is that it forces me to focus on words, not the shiny formatting I could apply to them. >.>

So! With a Plan (write the necessary sections, as needed, to keep the flow, as well as organize chunks of text into better flow via Scrivener project) I will now dive back into the word abyss.

I’ve been so energized and excited about this project all week. It’s awesome, this feeling of genuine joy and flailing-about-with-eagerness. Allowing myself to be flexible when I need to change things up on the go vs. stressing about it not Fitting The Original Plan has been soooo helpful in maintaining that energy.

It did take most of a day (while at work) for me to realize what I needed to do, but that 10-hr shift was super useful for creating a definitive break in writing vs. thinking mode. (Also? I GOT TO BE THE CAMERA OPERATOR FOR A SHOW. HAVE I MENTIONED I LOVE MY JOB.)

Just changing physical space (from where I was writing to where I work) allowed a different set of brain-patterns to kick in and sift through various random thoughts until I settled on what was needed to keep up the enthusiasm, the energy, and the knowledge in this revision.

Guys, I’m just so pumped about this book. 😀


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