Today I start revising the first draft of my current work-in-progress that I'm now calling The Great Ragout because oh, my, it's got a lot of "stuff" going on. I realized this was the case as the chapter count increased to a whooping 32. There was a reason for this -- my work was interrupted by not one, but two, family medical crises in 2015. Fortunately, things are okay for now, but clearly, the stop-and-start meant I spent some time wandering through the manuscript wilderness, trying to find my way back to the path after each break.
So, how do I revise?
I print the draft. For a long time, I thought I did this because I was "old school." Yes, I started my first book on ye olde typewriter. And I find it easier to keep track of changes and notes when I can hold the manuscript in my hands. However, I've come to another realization lately. Reading on hard copy makes the experience more of a reader experience and less of a writer experience. It gives me more distance, and gives me a better view of the bigger picture.
I read the draft with colored pen in hand and make changes and notes as I go. I write additions on the back of the pages and other paper as necessary. I use highlighters if there are blocks to be moved or deleted.
After I go through the whole manuscript this way, I begin the second draft on the computer. I don't just transpose the changes and additions and make deletions as noted. I make new changes. Sometimes I'll print up a scene or chapter to check it. I'll go back and forth making changes or moving bits. I save the deletions just in case, although I rarely use the cut bits. After I've done the second draft, I'll print it up and go through this whole process again, at least once more. Sometimes a few times. However many it takes until I'm satisfied the story is the best I can make it, and within the right word count.
First drafts are tough. They take a lot of mental effort, because you're making decisions all the time -- every sentence, really. It's like building a house. Revisions aren't easy either - it's like renovating a fixer-upper. The "bones" might be there, but the plumbing's shot and the wiring's not up to code, and then comes the new walls, etc. etc. and finally the decorating. But just like a good renovation, when the final draft is done, the satisfaction is wonderful.