Revising with Holly Lisle update, Lesson One


So, the first read-through of “Children” is going pretty well. I’m up to page 78 out of 123, and hoping to finish the Despair worksheet tomorrow night at Starbucks Runnymede in Toronto!

This is the biggest part of the first lesson, mostly because it involves the full manuscript read-through. The idea is that you look for five different things as you read:

  1. Ideas that didn’t work well or fell apart as you were writing them.
  2. Characters that work for the book, or don’t.
  3. Elements of the setting that work well, or poorly.
  4. Places where you find yourself skimming as you read.
  5. Places where the story is working and you enjoy it as you read.

So for each of those spots, I write down a little code in hot pink pen in the margin of the page, and make a note in my excel spreadsheet. The code indicates that it’s worksheet 1B, with another letter a through e for each of those five cases, and a numeric suffix to indicate the spreadsheet line.

(Sorry for the poor lighting in the picture; it’d probably be hard to see the hot pink codes anyway.)

In the spreadsheet, I write down a few more details about what is or isn’t working at that point in the book and why.

I’m not completely clear on exactly how the Holly Lisle method is going to fit these notes into the revision process, but I’m willing to continue on faith for a little while. So far, it’s been kind of fun working through this step, and even though I haven’t gotten too far into it, I actually feel a better sense of what Lani Diane Rich calls “putting your back up against the craft” so far than I did with Lani’s Storywonk Revision workshop. That’s the notion that the writer’s craft in general, and revision in particular, is something that you can succeed in if you’re just willing to work hard enough at it and follow the steps without letting your ego get in the way, as opposed to writing a first draft, which depends on inspiration and the blessings of the gods.

Too often, though, after I get into a revision I feel like I need divine inspiration to figure out a way to make the book good. We’ll see how well Holly Lisle is as a guide in several more lessons, I guess.

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