The Trenches of Revision

Yesterday was my first day in the trenches of revision. It’s been awhile since I’ve made a definite plan for revision – mostly because I tend to get overwhelmed by the big picture. But this time, I broke the process down into a series of steps, and it’s looking like it’ll be a bit easier that way.

I’m using a mixture of tips from Robert J. Ray’s The Weekend Novelist Rewrites the Novel and Holly Lisle’s One-Pass Manuscript Revision, plus some other strategies I’ve used before that have worked in the past.

In the first day of revision, I’ve already realized a few things:

1. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. When this happens, try to focus on one thing at a time.
2. If a new idea comes up in the middle of the process, write it down immediately. Keep a pen and notebook handy.
3. First drafts suck. As I read through mine, I was rolling my eyes at the horrible dialogue, cardboard characterization, and mixed metaphors. Keep in mind that you can fix all this stuff.
4. Staying organized is a must. Try to get all your stuff together (paper, pens, notebook, helpful books, printed drafts, sticky notes, page flags, whatever else you need) before you actually start. This makes everything so much easier.
5. If you can, try to work away from the computer so distraction and procrastination don’t take over. Print out everything you think you’ll need, shut down the computer, and walk away from it. If you come across something you need to look up on the Internet, write it down, then look it up later.

Now I shall move on to day 2 of revision! 🙂

9 thoughts on “The Trenches of Revision

  1. Today, I start my first day of revisions (ever). Before I was excited, but now I find myself nervous. I worry that I’ll stare at the page, not knowing what to do.
    I wish my printer worked, so I can print things out. But I’ll have to deal with doing it on my computer.
    A couple deep breathes and then it’s time to push through it!
    Good luck with your revisions. I hope you do better than I will!

    ~Katie Runyon


    1. It really is overwhelming at first, but when you start re-reading or type the first few new ideas, it’ll become a lot easier. Good luck to you – I’m sure your revision will turn out great! 🙂


    2. If you’re working on line:

      1. Save the document pre-revision so that you know you can always go back to what it was.

      2. On the clean copy ~ be merciless. Take out everything that doesn’t move the story forward in exactly the way you want.

      Good luck!


  2. Good luck to you too, Maggie.

    I find that I often stop writing my first drafts just shy of completion . . . so that I never need to climb into the trenches and create a more worthy 2nd draft. LOL


    1. It drives me crazy to have too many rough drafts lying around, thus I must revise them or do something with them!


  3. Do you have several revision files for each project? As you go through your revision process, how do you label your files? Adding the date to the project name helps me but I’m always looking for new ideas on how to keep my revisions organized!

    I love your “steps,” especially number five. It feels so much more real when you can see it on paper.

    Good luck with your revisions!


    1. I make a folder for each draft. Each chapter is a separate document within that draft’s folder. My folders are usually titled something like “Book” then “BookRevised” for a second draft, then “BookRevised2” for a third draft. My chapters are usually labeled “Chapter 1”, “Chapter 2”, etc. I don’t usually add dates to the folders or documents themselves – I have a separate notebook where I write down when I start and finish each draft.

      Thank you for commenting, Tara! Glad you liked the post! 🙂


      1. Thanks for the info–I’m glad I asked. I never thought to make each chapter a separate document. It sounds a lot easier to stay organized and sane so I’ll have to give it a try on my next project. 🙂


        1. The only problem that I’ve found with doing the chapters as separate documents is calculating word count for the whole novel is a bit more annoying – but I’m glad my advice helped! 🙂


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