Organizing Your Developmental Revisions
When transitioning from your drafting phase to revision, it can be useful to approach your changes from the biggest level of edits (plot holes, character development, etc.) first and work your way down to the smallest edits, like grammar and punctuation. In other words, follow the same order of editing levels you'd go through before publication: developmental, line, copy, then proofreading at the end.
Of course, tackling that big developmental stuff can feel daunting. Thankfully, there are things you can do to organize your approach. For example, the first thing I do when I start a fresh developmental edit is make a copy of a template I created to help me track a variety of details.
What's in the Spreadsheet?
The Characters Tab
I designate the characters I meet in a manuscript as Primary/POV, Secondary, Tertiary, and Other. I take note characteristics and anything that may help me identify contradictions in personality, growth opportunities, etc. in terms of their development.
The Plot Tab
This is where I list out and take notes on the major and minor plot lines, their inciting event, key details, and whether or not I felt each arc, however minor, was resolved by the end.
The World Tab (Optional)
This tab includes any settings that are important to the plot, as well as key world-building details that contribute to my understanding of the place the author has created.
The Chapter Tracker
Before I start my edit, I record each chapter’s page length and POV if that alternates. Then, as I read, I add in timing (to help me track when we are within the story), a very light summary of events, and any issues I notice. Consider this akin to “reverse plotting.”
The chapter tracker serves many purposes and is probably my most valuable tab. It’s my reference point when I need to find and refer to info in another chapter. It also helps me to identify quickly where the timing or pacing is off and to keep notes about problem areas within the story.
Have your own methods for tackling those big edits?
Share with other writers in the comments!