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Four Tools in My Book Revision Toolkit

In our 12-step recovery meetings, we often talk about our “toolkits.” You’ll hear things like: “That’s why I’m grateful that today I have a toolkit.” or “This time I brought my toolkit with me.” Obviously, no one is talking about real physical instruments like a hammer or a screwdriver. What we mean when we talk about a 12-step toolkit is a set of aids that we can employ when things get tough. For example, when attending an event where there might be a lot of drinking or even just emotional upheaval such as a wedding or funeral, we “bookend” the event. Bookending is when you call someone in your network before AND after the event. Touching base with another sober person can help you get through a difficult situation without drinking, hopefully with grace and dignity. Bookending is a tool in our recovery toolkit.

As a new writer in Book Revision Lab, I’m discovering revising can be a daunting and arduous task. Quitting (in recovery language we’d say “go out”) seems like an ever-present threat. That’s why it’s important to put together a toolkit for revision, too. Here are four things I’ve put in my revision toolkit so far: 

1. My (Almost) Daily Slack Check-In

As part of the Book Revision Lab, I’ve committed to checking in with my fellow writers on Slack, the communication platform we use. When I check in, I don’t want to share “No revising today” day after day. That’d be embarrassing. So if I’m going to check in, most likely, I’m going to do some revision first so that I have something to say when I do check in. Similarly to recovery bookending, my Slack check in holds me accountable

2. Craft Books Nearby

When I was in drafting mode in the Memoir Incubator, I didn’t read any books on craft. My goal was to get the words down on paper. Now that I’m taking a step back and looking at my manuscript from different angles, I enjoy picking up a book for insight and inspiration. Two I currently have on my desk are The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression which helps me show my characters’ emotions rather than tell them. And Refuse to Be Done by Matt Bell which has a plethora of revision techniques such as outlining your first draft to find your second. Which leads me to my next tool …

3. My Beat Outline

My beat outline is not a new writing tool for me. I created it a year ago before I started drafting my memoir. I use the beats detailed in the article “Using Save the Cat to Write a Memoir, and Cracking the Beat Sheet Course Review” by Angela Miyuki Mackintosh. Now that I’m revising, I refer to this outline often. In fact, I “bookend” my revision time with this outline. I refer to it before I start revising and again when I’m done for the day. This helps keep my memoir’s beat structure in place.

4. Quick & Easy Revisions

Some days I don’t have the time or energy to really dive into my manuscript. But I want to make sure that each day I’m moving my manuscript forward. So my toolkit has some quick and easy revision tools. One is using search to highlight  a word I have a tendency to overuse such as “just.” Then I go through my manuscript to see if I can remove the unnecessary word or find a better one. This is a simple and easy way to improve my manuscript. 

Being new to this revision process, I imagine I have many more tools to add to my revision toolkit. I’m excited to gather those tools discussed in my future Book Revision Lab Zoom sessions or on Slack. What’s in your toolkit?