Thursday, August 8, 2013

How to Make Revision Less Painful

I’m in the middle of the toughest revision I’ve ever worked on. One of the things that makes it hard is all the cutting and changing I’ve had to do. I’ve reworked my outline and my plot, so that entire sections of my story are being rewritten, moved or…gulp!...completely taken out.

It can be hard to let go of those well-written gems. Some ways that help me to make it a little less painful:

Stuff-I-Might-Use-Later document.  I put the sections I’ve taken out into another document ‘for later’. Somewhere in my brain, I have a vague notion that ‘later’ may never arrive for most of them, but I feel a little better, knowing they are there if I need them. At least they haven’t been totally zapped from existence.

Stay Focused on the Goal. Reminding myself of how much stronger the story is now, even though I’ve cut out some parts I liked, helps me to stay on track with my revision. I’m always asking:

Do I need this part?

Did I already show this in a different place?

Can I put this into another scene so it can do ‘double duty’?

Play Mind Games. One thing I like to do is to tell myself that I’m ‘just trying it out’ to see if it works. I always have the old version (and a few different versions as I go) if I don’t like it.
Although revision is hard, it's also rewarding. My story is a lot better and it feels like pieces are falling into place. I'm working harder, but having more fun than ever as the story takes new directions.
How do you get through a tough revision? What’s the hardest part?

P.S. I'm also over at MiG Writers this week, sharing some tips on Creating Characters That Live Outside the Story



  1. Tough revisions are...tough :) The hardest part for me is sometimes facing the fact that I need to completely reimagine a scene instead of fiddling around trying to make existing content work.

    1. So true! That's where I pretend to "save it for later".

  2. Yes, it helps so much that we can save it somewhere and not just zap it out of existence. One of the hard parts of revision is keeping everything organic. You can change major stuff that has little repercussions all the way through, and you have to catch those small spots and change, say, the character's reaction to something because in your old version she knew that and in your new version she doesn't.

  3. I like your idea of "just trying it out" to see if it works.

    And I already keep a separate document, which I call Notes, for each novel, so that's where I save the stuff I can't bear to part with!

    To me, one of the hardest things about revision is the ripple effect. Similar to what Marcia says, above, changing one thing about a character or one small part of the plot means going through the entire ms again and making sure it all makes sense. It can be exhausting.


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