Now that I’ve had a couple of weeks to reflect on the whole thing, I sort of have an idea what my process is. How I got from one draft to the next.
I decided to share that process here, in hopes it might help others who are in the throes of revisions. The best part? The process easily fits into an acronym. What could be more fun than an acronym?
So, without further ado, I present to you the D.A.R.K.E.R. path for revisions.
Before you jump into your revisions, take some time off from your manuscript. Get some distance from your work. Doing this will help you see if with fresh eyes.
Someone asked me if it was hard to have an editor want to make changes to my manuscript, if my ego got bruised. I had to laugh. This has been my dream for so long, to work with an editor, getting a manuscript ready for publication. And my editor, Katherine Harrison, has great ideas. So no, I wasn’t annoyed or hurt or offended by her suggestions. I can imagine if I had been, though, it would have made revising a difficult journey. Having a good attitude, I think, is essential.
After you’ve gained some distance from your manuscript, you’ll be able to read it from the perspective your audience, your readers, rather than as a writer. When you only read your work as a writer, you’re more likely to turn a blind eye in the places you’ve overindulged, and more likely to miss those things you think are one the page but really aren’t. Your audience won’t be as forgiving. Read from their perspective and your work will be stronger.
Kill your darlings. Just do it. Yes, it hurts. Yes, you love those parts. Cut them out and put them into another document to save forever if you must. But whatever you do, take out those lines and passages and scenes your gut tells you need to go.
Now that you’re reading like a Reader (capital R) and you’ve cut out all those beloved bits that you know don’t belong, it’s time to expand your vision of your work. For every scene, ask yourself if what’s written does all the work it can possibly do to benefit your story.
For example, I had a scene where one character needed to tell another character information that would move the plot to the next point. Routine housekeeping. In my original version, the character shows up, tells the other character the plan, and leaves. Compelling, right? Well, when I expanded my view of that scene — thought beyond what I’d already written — I saw that I could seed that encounter in the previous scene, which opened the door for the characters to have that encounter in a more interesting location, which in turn led to an emotional component to the scene that had previously been absent. Huzzah!
After you’ve done all this (gained distance, checked your attitude, read like a reader, killed your darlings, and expanded your vision of each scene), you’re ready to rewrite. Keep in mind you can repeat the above steps at any time, as a group or individually. If you feel too close to a scene, take a break and get some distance from it. If you really love that ending but realize it’s no longer the ending, take a deep breath, cut the chapter and write a new one. Be brave and keep moving forward.
To some this might seem like a lengthy and complicated process, but it doesn’t have to be. My editor and I agreed on a pretty aggressive turnaround (about six weeks). It took dedication, but there’s nothing like the pressure of a deadline to get the creative juices flowing!
As with any writing advice, you have to do what works for you. Try on different methods. Pick and choose the things that get you to the next level.
I’m confident if you give the D.A.R.K.E.R. method a try, you’ll come away with a tighter manuscript and a more satisfying read.