The Illuminator Rising, is the third book in The Voyages of the Legend series. See her guest blog below.
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My writing process makes me what they call a “pantser.” I create a vague, skeletal outline of my book plots in advance, but then I start writing and see where the characters take me. Sometimes they are stubborn, and I end up with a tangled-up manuscript at the end. That was definitely the case with my latest book, The Illuminator Rising. 76,000 words is a lot of tangled manuscript. So if you’re going to be a pantser, it’s crucial to be a good reviser. Here are some of the hacks I’ve developed that help me tackle huge revision projects without going insane along the way!
- My revision process starts with my amazing team of test readers. After doing two complete drafts of a manuscript in complete solitude, I send the rough product to them for their hard, honest critique.
Since they’re a mix of middle-grade readers, young adults, and parents of middle-graders, I get a whole range of comments, which is exactly what I need! I compile their feedback into a comprehensive spreadsheet. Seeing it all together on one page helps me to identify trends and recognize the manuscript’s biggest weaknesses—like that the early draft of The Illuminator Rising had 28 named characters, most of whose personal arcs got lost halfway through the book. Oops.
Once I’ve got the comments spreadsheet together,
- I divide the book into sections and assign each one its own color of post-it note. (I couldn’t write anything without post-it notes. I should put them in my book acknowledgments.) Each thread of revision—each shallow character, dropped plotline, or half-baked theme—gets its own sticky note.
The Illuminator Rising had a lot of sticky notes. Then I can work chronologically through the book and check off each sticky note as I address it. In college writing classes, I was known to physically cut up my stories with scissors so I could visually rearrange the pieces and fix structural issues. That’s virtually impossible (or at least a really messy idea) with a 75,000-word manuscript. So for this book, I went digital instead.
For one messy section,
- I digitally highlighted each logical section in a different color. Then I grouped the bits and pieces together by color, which allowed me to quickly see where the material was, how long the sections were, when I finished a section, etc.
It was a lot of staring at screens, but I think it helped me sort the material into a much more logical flow!
All in all, Draft 6 of The Illuminator Rising looks very, very different than the draft I sent to my test readers. (As in, different people die in this draft. Surprise!) I hope it makes for an exciting read!
Driven from their home island of Rhynlyr, Ellie and her friends must solve a riddle to find the survivors of the Vestigia Roi. But instead of a safe haven, they discover a hopeless band of refugees paralyzed by fear. Strengthened by new allies and new gifts, the crew of the
Legend faces dangers like never before. Can they escape being shot out of the sky, falling over the Edge of the world, or being engulfed by urken armies long enough to rally the Vestigia Roi? And can they rekindle a fire from the ashes of the One Kingdom before Draaken takes over the world?
Alina Sayre is also on Goodreads