January 31, 2013

The Revision Cave

If you write, you hear the term "revision cave" all the time (or at least you should). And from time to time, authors share their process, describing the structure and form and material of their own personal cave--and I LOVE that. So, I'm sharing a picture from my neatly-swept, ridiculously color-coded cave, because I'm in the same boat that you are (even if you can't see me there with you).

This is me working in the evening, on my coffee table (which must be cleared for day-time use. Thus, the lack of year-old piles of stuff and dust and grime. Although I am compulsively tidy). Once I have beta feedback, I like to revise on a printed copy of the MS. Those color tabs are for tracking different elements (action, mystery, emotion, key themes) so that I can balance the flow of the story. I scribble endless changes on post-it notes and stick them to the bottom edge of the page, that way the pages stay clear and easy to read.

I drink a lot of tea.

I resist the remote control but keep it just barely on the edge of the table where it beckons to me like a hard-earned treat.

Generally, I start out with the headphones in my ears and then rip them out at some point, when a moment grabs me so acutely that I must eradicate all other sound to focus on the essence of it.

Oh, yeah. That notebook with the ridiculously positive "Do What U Love To Do" printed across it? well, that's a notebook for new ideas. If they interrupt my work flow, I dump them in there super-fast to get them out of my brain, and out of the way.

The notebook on top of my laptop has ten bajillion pages of journalling in response to my beta readers' endless questions (thanks, guys!). I keep it out for reference. It gives birth to hundreds of post-it notes.

And at some point, I reach the end of the pages and go back through a second time to copy it all into the computer, using this pass as an opportunity to edit even further.

And that's it. That's how I work. How do you work? Do you have a sacred space? Are you anal retentive about color-coded post-its, too? Feel free to leave links in the comments, if you have pictures to share. I LOVE spying into other people's worlds. That's why I do this crazy fiction writing thing in the first place.


  1. Cheryl Klein would be so proud of all those sticky tabs!! I do NONE of this- it's all on my laptop...in Word. I don't even use Scrivner. I think my next revision is going to deserve fun office supplies.

    1. DO IT! Office supplies are a well-earned reward after writing that first draft :) Of course, I spent a decade sketching, designing products, so I have a visceral attachment to paper. And color. Makes me happy.

  2. Like Jen- I only use MS Word.

  3. Holy moley I am in love with your organized desk life! (Dear self, where has your organized self gone?!) I have a fabulous office space I love, with a row of bookcases and a fairly organized desk, but not quite to your level. There are stacks, because I'm a stacker (same at work; every stack has it's special contents that I could name without looking). Otherwise, I pretty much just use my computer (Word), and two different bulletin boards with projects written all over them in post-its. Thanks for sharing your space, Melanie, I'm inspired!

  4. Oh my, you are organized. I'm jealous. I often say I'm going to start using color-coded things and whatnot, and I never do. I have different notebooks, scraps of paper, a printed copy of the novel, all with notes. I write wherever makes the most sense at the moment--the desk in our family room, my bed, Panera. I often edit one character and his/her story at a time, from beginning to end. It helps me to follow and get into their particular story.
    I'm almost out of revision cave. A few more days, I think...good luck!

  5. I have my library to work in! But your table looks much MUCH neater. My library looks like small explosions happen there frequently. Plus one wall is covered with cork boards full of different coloured index cards of plot points, maps of my world, ect...

    I love taking a look at people's process! You look FAR more organized! :D

  6. I love reading about all of your habits! Thanks for sharing!

    I came across an editor's tweet the other day with a picture attachment. Guess what? She had ALL OF THE SUPPLIES I USE. Same post-its. Same tabs. ALL IN A NEAT LINE.

    Kinda creepy. Kinda exciting.


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