My Story Exploded Into a Pile of Post-It Notes

Flipped Two Tier Outline on Closet Door.jpg

Last weekend I started the Revision Sprint with Jennie Nash of Author Accelerator.  In a nutshell, it's an intense two-weekend online adventure.  Jennie is teaching us how to revise the first three chapters of a completed rough draft.  Jennie breaks down a big process into logical  and meaningful steps that will help me get to the next finish line. I love it!

We've got one more weekend to go, but this is what I'm learning so far:

1. Don't even think about revising until your draft is structurally rock solid.

Before revising all 220 pages of my memoir, I had to make sure my rough draft wasn't resting on precarious quicksand!  This wasn't the time to focus on alliteration and metaphors.  Nope.  Jennie had us start with a Two Tier Outline. Basically, it's a two page document - Jennie's strict about length - that includes a brief description of essential scenes with a note about WHY that scene is important. In my head, "Oh, I got this.  Easy."

Yeah, right.

After completing my outline, I realized (with Jennie's wise feedback) that I had too much "this happened and this happened and this happened" which can get pretty boring even if those scenes are about my romantic escapades (or lack thereof!).  Plus, I noticed that some of my big message WHYs were repeated.

So, I revised my Two Tier Outline, but this time I started with the big message WHYs of my book.  If you study the photograph, those are the bigger yellow Post-it Notes.  Then, I went through the entire book again and wrote every major scene on a little pink Post -it. Then, I put each scene under its matching WHY.  Wowza! Here's what happened:

  • I moved scenes. (For example, Chapter 1 scenes got moved to the final third of the book.)

  • I noticed that my book is split into four main parts - or movements.

  • I wrote a prologue.

  • I dumped scenes.

  • I combined scenes.

  • I moved scenes

  • I got clarity about several of my big message WHYs.

  • And then, my head exploded!  There was Post-it carnage everywhere!

"Oh, goodness," I screamed, "my neat and tidy draft is blown apart!" 

But, my sweet husband noticed something.  "Lorrie, you seem really happy right now!"  Yes, this is an amazing process because I know I'm going to get to something better even though it will take ALL. THE. TIME!  

2. If you can't come up with a good title, maybe it's a sign of bigger problems.

I'm usually pretty good at coming up with titles.  I don't stress about it.  I never try to do it before I write a draft.  I reread the work, and then let it inspire me, often lifting phrases right from the page.  However, with this book, I'm stumped!  I don't love any of my title ideas, and I've had a lot!  I cannot tell you how many nights I've stayed awake thinking about titles. 

But, maybe that's a good thing? 

Maybe it was evidence that I didn't have super duper clarity on my big message WHY? 

Oh la la.  That's it!  I've got faith in this process and I know the just right title will come to me when it's ready!

3.  It's good to revise with a community!  

I'm a member of Hope Writers and Author Accelerator.  I know other writers are doing the same hard work, and that gives me encouragement to keep going.

So, Writers, keep going.  When your head explodes because revision is BIG work, embrace all the Post-its and carry on.  

Always writing,