Notes from the Revision Cave–March

This year for newsletter subscribers, I’m sharing about my process as I work on my next middle-grade mystery. I’ll repost here on my blog a few weeks after they appear in the newsletter, but if you want to follow my writing process closer to real-time, or you don’t want to miss out on my monthly Book Love giveaways, or you want to be the first to hear Book Scavenger updates and other bookish fun, then make sure to subscribe. I’ll be sending out a new one with the latest soon!

I have a fun update for you about the novel I’ve been working on. It has a title! Well, a working title, which means it could still change before it’s published in 2022. But my editor and I both like it, and she said I could share! We’re calling it The Case of the Nancy Drews. What do you think? I bet you can guess what the mystery revolves around . . .

I’m currently in one of my favorite phases of the revision process. My ideas are starting to gel, the writing in the opening chapters feels solid, and I have a handle on the characters and what they’re doing in the story. This is not to say it’s all smooth sailing and the words type effortlessly from my fingers, but it’s exciting to see and believe in the book’s potential. I’ve also been doing a lot of supplemental reading and research, which is fun and always inspires ideas.

Something that can be tricky when you get into the middle of a revision is keeping track of different threads and plot points. When I was working on Book Scavenger, I made a color-coded outline with the story broken down into short scene summaries. The colors were used to represent different characters and their plot threads. I’m a visual person and so the different colors helped me get a sense for pacing and how the different parts of the story were working together. The photo below shows the outline for one of the earlier drafts of Book Scavenger, so there are many differences from the final version (like a character named Mr. Condor, who I cut from the book, for example).

Recently, Steve Sheinkin shared photos of how he storyboards his nonfiction novels-in-progress. Author Melissa Stewart asked him questions about these photos and posted his responses on her blog, which I found fascinating. It’s somewhat similar to what I did above, but he uses colored notecards and tacks them to a wall, in columns under the chapter where they appear. I really like how he can move the cards around, and how he can see the entire landscape of a book at once. I don’t have a huge wall space, but I do have two small bulletin boards above my desk. Perhaps I could make cards small enough to fit across them for my Nancy Drew book? We’ll see . . .

I love learning about the different methods and processes of book creators. (That’s what inspired me to do the Creative Spaces interviews on my blog! They’re listed in the sidebar by author or illustrator name.) On her YouTube channel, Melanie Conklin shares how she uses sticky notes to brainstorm, draft, and revise a novel. I also liked seeing KA Holt’s process of laying out her novel on the floor. If you are a writer, what organizational methods do you like to use?