Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Revision Process

It shouldn't come as a big surprise that I am currently revising a manuscript. (Sheesh, when am I not revising a manuscript?) (Like, never.)

Flickr image by Dan PattersonBut I've noticed that often people, probably in order to procrastinate on their own revision, start asking around to find out the best way to revise.

Well, today I am here to tell you the best way to revise. I know you've all be waiting for a definitive answer on this, and I'm brave enough to tell you.

The answer is:

It depends.

It depends on the person revising. It depends on whether or not you outline first, or later, or not at all. It depends on whether you like to choose one particular aspect (such as beefing up your dialogue) and ignore the rest, or if you polish the entire scene before moving to the next. It depends on whether or not you're having a good day or a bad day.

It depends on the manuscript itself. It depends on the genre you've written. It depends on how well the plot came together in the first draft. It depends on whether or not the characters decide to behave and help, or misbehave and take you on a wild goose chase through the story.

The best way to find the best way to revise is to simply revise. (Yeah, go ahead and read that again. I know I had to.) Try different techniques and see if they work for you. If they don't, IT'S OKAY. Even if they work for Mr. or Ms. NYT Bestseller, that DOES NOT MEAN THEY HAVE TO WORK FOR YOU. I've come across plenty of great revision ideas that seem great on paper (someone else's paper, that is), but when I try them on my own, they Do. Not. Work. And that's okay.

Case in point: One day about two years ago I was surfing the internet, hoping to find a great way to revise the book I had almost finished. (For those of you reading between the lines, yes, I was procrastinating. That ending was not working out so well. In fact, that draft still sits there, almost finished.) And I came across this great revision idea from a well-known author in the adult romance field. She had posted her one-pass revision process, which sounded heavenly. I need at least a half-dozen passes before my manuscripts resemble most authors' first drafts, so you can imagine my excitement.

Well, guess what? Yep, once I tried to implement her plan, I was so overwhelmed with the amount of work that I gave up after revising the first page. I'm still trying to recover from that experience. (For those of you still reading between the lines, yes, that is probably part of the reason why that manuscript still sits, unfinished, in a file somewhere on my computer.) On the next manuscript, I had much better success during the revision process by focusing on one aspect first (though that manuscript lies unfinished as well...long story).

So find your own process. Go ahead and ask others (heck, I think I've already shared somewhere on this blog my process), but just remember the best revision process is the one that works for you.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my revision (aka stop procrastinating)...


  1. I was going to go with the best way to revise was to revise...like you said...stop procrastinating.

  2. LOL, Karin. You are so right. :)

  3. Hmmmm, great post. And so true! But it's so hard to just sit in that chair and revise some days. Suddenly scrubbing toilets, doing laundry and watching reruns of Donahue sound more exciting.

    Yep, I'm a procrastinator, too.

  4. Welcome to the club, Erin! I'm currently working on a non-fiction manuscript that lists all the ways to procrastinate instead of write. Obviously it'll be awhile before it's done, because I keep procrastinating...


  5. I discovered it's smarter to fix plot and structure first, and fix details later. Otherwise, I waste a lot of time obsessing over commas when I really need to change the story.

  6. Amen, Kaylie. I do the same thing, though sometimes that drives my critique partners crazy!

  7. I've always kinda done my own thing when it came to revisions. I'm happy to know I've been right all along.

    Thanks Elissa!

  8. You're welcome, T.D. And good luck on your own revisions!