I’m knee deep in the revision process, so I thought I would blog about some of the tools I use in revision. Sure, there’s the usual marking up of written text, but not at the beginning. At the beginning, I really try to re-vision the project, and to do that, I break the story and characters apart on big sheets of paper.

Shep Mindmap The ReturnI use mindmaps to outline a character’s emotional state. This is the one I did for Shep to write Book 3 of Dogs. I went through every emotion he could be feeling and every source for that emotion to try to wrap my brain around exactly where he was at the start of the book.

I also use mindmaps to try to work out plot ideas. Here’s another one I did for Book 3. In rewriting my favorite scene in that book (maybe my favorite scene in the whole series), I couldn’t get exactly what was going on for Shep right in my mind. So I worked out all the options on paper until I pinned down exactly what he was going through. Then I went to the text and put it into the right words.Shep Plot Sketch The Return

I also used a word cloud for all the Dogs books to keep in mind all the different sounds the dogs could make to express a given emotion. This hung on my wall the entire time I was writing and revising the books to keep my mind constantly on ways of making my text more “doggy.”Dogs Wordcloud

Finally, to help me get my mind around a book in its entirety, I use post-its on a piece of poster board, each post-it representing a chapter. I put down what happens, how it relates to the bigger things I have working through the book as a whole, whether it contains an action scene, etc.The Return Plot Board

When writing No Safety, this board didn’t give me enough space to really think through each day, so I bought a huge artist pad and sketched out each day on a single sheet. I wrote out what was happening “off-screen” with the government and police, plus what was going on for each character, and how they revealed bits of that “off-screen” action. In this way, I was able to keep track of who knew what and when and who was where, etc.No Safety Day 1

Once all this off-draft thinking is done, then I’ll start the hand edits—I can’t edit on the computer. I print everything out and work in pencil. Sometimes, I’ll literally cut a draft apart and then tape it back together. Leads to messy manuscripts, but hey, it’s how the omelet gets made!



Most Recent Book: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. (All I can say so far is wow.)

Most Recent TV Show: Farscape (Going in for a rewatch of my favorite space epic series—Alas, Firefly, you ended too soon to count as a series. If you haven’t watched it (or Firefly), just get yourself a Netflix account and sit back for an awesome ride.)

Most Recent Movie: The Avengers (HOLY BANANAS. So great. Joss Whedon managed to make what could have been an unwieldy plot concept with ensemble cast of screen-hogging all-stars into a smooth running, action/adventure/comedy where everyone got their “moment.”)

Most Recent Song:Finishing the Hat,” from Sunday in the Park with George (Possibly the greatest song on the intensity of the revision/creative process.)

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