Before I can finish my next novel, I have to make some changes to the first 70 000 words (which, unfortunately, weren’t working very well). Such a task can be overwhelming, so this is what you do.
1. Go to a location far away from phone and internet where you will feel guilty if you don’t work.
2. Write down a one-line summary of each scene in the story, as it stands, on a file card.
3. Arrange the file cards in chapters on a large surface (like a luxury king-size bed) so you can get a bird’s eye view the whole story, or at least the chapters that need attention. Now stop and think for a bit. What needs to be cut? What needs to be inserted (make a note of inserts on different coloured cards)? What scenes need to be combined or moved? Here is some thinking music…
4. Now make a list in your notebook of all those fixes. Make sure there are check boxes next to every point! Colour-code them if you want it to look super purty.
5. Transfer the list onto your computer copy, make a note (using “comments” in Word) wherever something needs to be done. Sometimes it will be a simple tweak, sometimes it will be a big fix. The example at the left shows that I need two new scenes and a bit of rewriting in a third scene. You might have dozens of notes to start with. As you complete the notes, you delete them. The number of notes decreases in a pleasing fashion.
6. Added fun can be had by ticking the check-boxes in your notebook!