The Plan: Phase One

19 Jan

Project: Edit is officially underway, and my manuscript is starting to bleed.

That’s a good thing, of course.

So, what does this editing actually look like?  It’s one thing to say, “I read through twenty-five pages and made notes,” but another thing entirely to say how I’m doing that, or what I’m looking for along the way.  

My second draft was a total re-write of the first, so in Phase One of Project: Edit, I’m reading through to, well, see if the changes worked.  That’s still too broad, though.  Here’s what I’m looking for, and how I’m doing it.

What I’m looking for:

  • As I read the novel in its entirety, make note of how the pacing feels, if there are any dangling threads, any continuity issues as far as the plot and subplots go.
  • Scene check: are all of my scenes actually scenes?¹
  • Read with an eye for suspense: are any scenes dragging?
  • Are any scenes or subplots or characters unnecessary?
  • Are action, emotion, and theme woven imperceptibly and effectively?
  • As far as story goes, is there too much of it?  Too little?
  • Have I been intriguing without being confusing?  Or, are things too obvious?
  • Make notes on what to improve.
  • Make a general, very broad outline, along the way. (I’ve made outlines before, but since I strayed from them I want an organized account of the scenes I actually wrote).


How I’m doing it:

  •  With a blue spiral notebook and an artillery of colored pens, I’m reading it page by page.  I’m not reading particularly fast, nor am I reading as slow as a snail.
  • With red pens, mark the actual manuscript in places that sound weird, vague, boring, interesting, funny — anything that requires a “Look at this — this is what I’m talking about when I say ____.”
  • With a normal blue pen, in the spiral notebook, write any and every thought I have pertaining to story, character, things that need tweaking/re-thinking, and things I like.  I keep the list above in mind as I read, and make notes accordingly.
  • With my colored pens (orange, fuchsia, lime, teal, purple, forest green), I’ve created a little color-coding system.  I’ll circle or underline my spiral-notebook notes when I come to things that need more vivid or sensual description (orange), things that pertain to theme/things that need to be focused on more but are currently buried in clutter (fuchsia), scenes that need to be re-envisioned in order to work better (a purple “Re-E” written to the side), actions I need to take, such as look for every time ___ is mentioned to make sure it’s not too much (teal), loose ends (forest green)…things like that.  The color-coding is so I can easily point out what needs to change, and how, when it’s time to actually go through and make the changes.
  • I’m putting all of these notes under sub-headings (Chapter 1:Scene 1), giving them titles (“The Bridge”), and listing the pages of the manuscript on which they appear (p. 1-4).
  • In the last section of this three-subject spiral, I’m keeping a running list of these things (Ch1:Sc1 – “The Bridge” p.1-4) and writing a brief description of what happens — or what is supposed to be the focus and is not happening — below it.
  • If a scene is not working or needs to be re-done in order to work, I make a note in red about what, specifically, I’m thinking needs to change about it and marking it with the purple “Re-E.”


So, that’s my plan for Phase One, which I’ve scheduled to last from yesterday (18 January) until a week from Friday (29 January).  I’m going to push hard to get through all 336 pages at a steady pace, setting myself up nicely for Phase Two (which is where I’ll start to make sense of, and begin to implement, the changes that need to happen, from large to small).


That’s the plan, we’ll see if it works.

And now, enough talk about this.  It’s time to dive in and knock out some more scenes!

Revision Update, Phase One | 25 pages down, 311 to go

¹Taken from Holly Lisle’s One-Pass Revision Method,a scene: “has a start and a finish, characters and dialogue, engages at least one and sometimes all five senses, has conflict and change.”

22 Responses to “The Plan: Phase One”

  1. Linda Tuesday / 19 January 10 at 1:05 pm #

    Good grief! Yout Phase One is all my phases rolled into one. I see now how wildly unorganized I am … it’s a wonder I get anything in shape. I’m printing this out to use for the next piece I edit.

    And happy editing to you.

    • owlandsparrow Tuesday / 19 January 10 at 3:05 pm #

      Well, like I said (yesterday, I think), this is going to be a “let’s see if this works” sort of plan, haha. It might be better split into separate phases, but it’s at least working well so far. 🙂 Let me know if it ends up working well for you next time you edit, if you do end up trying it out – I’d like to hear.

      Oh! Thanks for the re-tweet, by the way. 🙂

  2. Merrilee Tuesday / 19 January 10 at 4:41 pm #

    I LOVE reading about people who approach editing in a logical and organised manner. You are my new hero!

    • owlandsparrow Tuesday / 19 January 10 at 5:23 pm #

      Aw, thanks, Merrilee! Admittedly, it’s the only way I know how to approach it – I’m a list-making, color-coding, spreadsheet-loving kind of girl. I’d be completely overwhelmed if not for some sort of logical, organized system!

  3. islesam Tuesday / 19 January 10 at 8:53 pm #


    That’s awesome. & way more than my poor little brain can wrap around right now. Then again, I’m also doped up on 8 kinds of vitamins & out-of-body-experience cold medication. So… daunting.

    Either way, sounds positively fantastic! WAY TO GO! PROJECT EDITS GO GO GO!

    It’s the cold medicine talking.

    • owlandsparrow Thursday / 21 January 10 at 1:17 pm #

      Wheee! Thanks! I’m super-excited about the plan, but am just now recovering from a Horrible Night of Sickness (two nights ago) and haven’t been able to focus much (Last night, I fell asleep during the opening credits of American Idol after sleeping most of the day, if that tells you anything…hehe) – so I’m a bit behind. Not going to worry about that, though – I’m just going to keep resting for at least today and allow myself proper recovery time. I’m sorry you’ve been sick, too! Hope you feel better soon, if you’re not already. 🙂

  4. Megs - Scattered Bits Tuesday / 19 January 10 at 10:38 pm #

    You go, girl! I got excited knowing the article helped you and that you too read Natalie Whipple (LOVE her revision articles — next writer’s notebook post is going to feature her prominently). As for quick update, I’m going to get my first project edits post up right after I make my way by force or persuasion through the draft of a January short story. I refuse to miss this goal.

    • owlandsparrow Thursday / 21 January 10 at 1:22 pm #

      I only recently discovered Natalie’s blog, but I like it a lot. She has no idea who I am, though, haha 🙂 Her revision articles are, indeed, fantastic!

      How’s your January short story coming along?

  5. Laura Tuesday / 19 January 10 at 11:01 pm #

    Wow. You are way more organized than I am. I edit whenever I get bored and just pick the part that I feel like working on. You have inspired me to approach it more thoughtfully. I also love to edit on paper vs. computer, but since I don’t organize it, I tend to lose pages. I like your style, owlandsparrow. 🙂

    • owlandsparrow Thursday / 21 January 10 at 1:26 pm #

      Hey, Laura! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and for your encouraging feedback! I think I’d get overwhelmed if I edited without some sort of system – which is funny, because too much organization overwhelms some people! But, yeah – I’m determined to get this thing done, and to do it well, and for me that means a big plan. 🙂 Glad I could inspire you, and I’m glad I ran across your blog! Can’t wait to see how your manuscript comes along, and to hear how excited you are once you meet your goals (and reward yourself with massages, haha)!

  6. joyofdawn Thursday / 21 January 10 at 10:48 am #

    Way to go Project: Edit! Glad to hear you have a good plan going! I have missed so much… Haven’t been on the computer long enough to do much. Did finally get a new post up!
    Read about your hair expirience! That sounded dreadful! Glad to hear it turned out well! Haven’t been to a salon since I was five. That was only for my cousin’s wedding…
    Keep the plan going! Love the colored pens!

    • owlandsparrow Thursday / 21 January 10 at 1:29 pm #

      I noticed you’d been gone for a bit and was glad to read your new post today! 🙂 Wow, you haven’t been to the salon in a long time, either! Have you cut your hair at home since then, or just left it long?

      Thanks for your kind words of encouragement!! (And for your mutual love of colored pens, hehe) 🙂

  7. Kathleen Wall Thursday / 21 January 10 at 1:30 pm #

    I love your color-coded revision strategy. My brain doesn’t work that way, but it would be nice if it did. I wish I could turn my MS into a revision rainbow! Happy editing!

    • owlandsparrow Friday / 22 January 10 at 9:13 am #

      I can’t remember when I discovered I was a color-coding fiend, but I think it was sometime during college. I think I’ve always just been a sucker for buying cute pens and highlighters (I have a ten-pack of Sharpie highlighters, too, and I LOVE THEM) – somewhere along the line, I developed an excuse for using them that turned out to work pretty well for me, haha!

  8. cynthia Thursday / 21 January 10 at 4:52 pm #

    I agree with Kathleen–I love color-coding. When I was revising my first novel, I used color-coded index cards to stay focused on various issues as I read along. I’ll be interested in how this works for you. Good luck!

    • owlandsparrow Friday / 22 January 10 at 9:15 am #

      Ooh, color-coded index cards – that sounds fun, too. That idea sounds like something right up my alley. How, exactly, did that work? Did you just put the theme topic at the top, and then make notes on the cards whenever you found a spot where it appeared in the manuscript? I’d love to hear more about this (especially if my guess is way off, haha)!

      • cynthia Wednesday / 27 January 10 at 7:52 pm #

        I used the cards more as reminders of threads I was combing through the manuscript: pink for the children, yellow for art, purple for the journals…I would spread them out around me as I read to try to keep it all in my head. : )


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