I just finished the second draft of my time travel YA (young adult) novel, which I'm tentatively calling Killing Kessler. I started the rough draft last May, and it took me three months to finish. Mind you, when I say rough, I mean rough. The characters go through the motions and say their lines, but with minimal props, settings, inner dialogue, or even much emotion.
Then I began the second draft. For me, the purpose of the second draft is to flesh the story out. This is when I add the sounds, smells, tastes, and textures. This is when the characters share their feelings, think about their situations, and really come to life. This step takes at least as much time and effort as the rough draft. I used to dread revision, but I've grown to love it. During this draft, I concentrate on who my characters are, what they're thinking and feeling, and the richness of the world around them.
The next step: I read the manuscript out loud. My family thinks I'm insane, but my ear catches all sorts of problems my eye has missed. In particular, I find words that repeat too often, action sequences that don't make sense, and awkward phrasing.
After the read-aloud, I ask a few trusted friends to read the manuscript. By now I'm so close to it, I don't notice things that will jump out at someone reading it cold. When I had a critique partner review a chapter of my previous novel, she noticed that I had a character clinging to her husband's dead body in the paragraph after his corpse had disappeared. This is just one example, but obviously the feedback from these readers is invaluable. If you're one of these people, you have my eternal gratitude.
After that, I repeat the previous two steps as many times as it takes to make the manuscript the best I feel I can make it. Then, and only then, is it ready for submission.
Lately, I've been thinking about my revision process. I once spoke with a successful author who said she doesn't use an outline, and she makes only minimal revisions. She thinks about the book for a long time before she begins writing, but once she does, it comes out in nearly final form. While I would love to write like that, I know my mind doesn't work that way. I have to get my thoughts on paper first, no matter how poorly expressed, before I can put on the polish. So now I'm wondering, what do the rest of you do? What is your revision process like? Do you enjoy revision, or it is a necessary (or unnecessary) evil?
I'll be taking a break over the holidays, so...until January, happy writing, and may your coffee pot never run dry.