Today I’m pleased to be able to welcome Annalisa Crawford to the blog to talk about her revision process.
Annalisa lives in Cornwall UK, with a good supply of moorland and beaches to keep her inspired. She lives with her husband, two sons, a dog and a cat. Annalisa writes dark contemporary, character-driven stories. She has been winning competitions and publishing short stories in small press journals for many years, and is the author of four books, Cat & The Dreamer, That Sadie Thing and other stories, Our Beautiful Child and You, I. Us. She won 3rd prize in the Costa Short Story Award, 2015.
You can find her First Draft process Q&A HERE.
Your first draft has been completed, what state is it generally in?
Disjointed, with random scenes scattered about There are some notes about needing ‘more’ – which could be more character interaction, more to the scene, extra scenes, extra characters – and there may be blank pages with ‘new chapter?’ written on it. I basically leave my first draft as a glorified, detailed plan.
It’s likely that the true story hasn’t even emerged yet. In one of my maybe-never-published novels, a whole character appeared in the second draft, and then commandeered the whole story. The novel now bears his name!
What is the first thing do before you start to revise?
I print it out and read it, with a coloured pen poised to make notes. I’ve probably written things towards the end that need foreshadowing earlier, so my read-through often includes flipping back to early pages to add the foreshadowing.
How do you assess the damage that needs working on?
I don’t need to assess – I know it’s bad. This is probably why my books take forever to write!
Do you allow anyone to read that very first draft before revisions or can you assess it objectively yourself?
Hahahahaha…. No! At this stage, it only really makes sense to me.
What do you initially focus on, when approaching the completed first draft of the manuscript?
The story. Due to my ad hoc nature of writing the first draft, there may be whole sections which don’t fit, which should be moved to an entirely different location within the story, which don’t make sense.
Do you have any rituals, writing or real-world, when revising a manuscript?
My coloured pens are a huge part of my revision process. I make sure I have them all very close. And, of course, copious amounts of tea and chocolate. I’m often found muttering to myself as I walk the dog, too.
In what format do you revise, paper or computer?
Paper, at this stage. I love to cover every margin with notes that may or may not be decipherable later.
How messy is the revision process – can you go in and repair areas or does the whole manuscript get decimated?
Decimation and annihilation.
Is revision an overhaul of the story or is it minor editing?
It’s a complete overhaul.
What’s the biggest change you’ve made to a story during this process?
As I mentioned earlier, my recent novel changed entirely from the story I thought I was telling to one where a brand new character took over. I didn’t see him coming at all. I thought it was going to be a relatively uplifting story, but he took it down a very dark path.
When first drafting, many writers keep track of progress by counting words in a day. How do you make sure you’re progressing as you’re revising?
I have a spreadsheet where the first draft count is recording, chapter by chapter, and add columns for subsequent drafts. One novel has seven columns so far. I also like to have an ‘Ideal’ column where I work towards a certain word count, but I’m not bothered if I don’t reach it. I like writing – and reading – shorter novels, so if I don’t hit a certain number, it’s not a problem.
Do you prefer to write the first draft or do you prefer the revision process?
I love revising, probably because it’s what other writers would identify as their first draft. I love the puzzle of putting all these building blocks into a neat, coherent wall.
What do you drink while you’re working?
Tea. So much tea. I’ve got a large mug which holds the equivalent of two standard sized mugs. And I fill it to the brim. Sometimes, during an evening session, I’ll have a glass of wine.
How long does this process take and what shape is the book now in?
Draft after draft after draft. Sadly, years. But, when I’ve finished, it’s pretty much the most perfect book I can imagine writing. Now, if only I could speed myself up…
Thanks for taking the time to take us into your process, Annalisa.
You, I. Us
In You. I. Us., Annalisa Crawford captures everyday people during poignant defining moments in their lives: An artist puts his heart into his latest sketch, an elderly couple endures scrutiny by a fellow diner, an ex-student attempts to make amends with a girl she bullied at school, a teenager holds vigil at his friend’s hospital bedside, long distance lovers promise complete devotion, a broken-hearted widow stares into the sea from the edge of a cliff where her husband died, a grieving son contacts the only person he can rely on in a moment of crisis, a group of middle-aged friends inspire each other to live remarkable lives.
Day after day, we make the same choices. But after reading You. I. Us., you’ll ask yourself, “What if we didn’t?”