Thursday Thirteen - 267 - 13 Things to Keep in Mind During the Revision Process

by Julia Phillips Smith

Once upon a time, I didn't have the slightest clue about tackling the changes that needed to be made in a manuscript. Thankfully, I belong to a writers' group that meets once a month to share craft-of-writing expertise. We are blessed to have a dynamic group of writers who drive one another forward through all the bumps and turns of the writing journey.

I'm currently in revisions for Book 2 of my Dragonsfyre dark fantasy series. Here are thirteen things I'll keep in mind as I get the manuscript ready for its first read-through by beta readers:

1 – The repetitive phrases and word choices that got me what I needed at the time--word count for NaNoWriMo--will be ruthlessly chopped.
2 – The nature of the repetitive writing was pure: words on paper. They serve the same purposes as pencil sketch marks for an artist. They provide framework only. No need to get hung up on them.

3 – Deleting words is not scary. Okay, maybe deleting words is sometimes scary. What will I replace them with? Well, if they were working, I wouldn't be deleting them. Time to find another way to say the same thing, only with a fresh take on it. 
4 –  Am I as deeply in my character's POV as I can be? Does this character use any telltale catchphrases that another character might use? If so, that's me--the writer--intruding upon my character. Time to go deeper.
 5 – Am I keeping track of the physical blocking of the scene? Blocking is the placement of actors onstage in rehearsal, and when writing, the author must block out the characters within the fictional landscape. Did my hero sit, only to magically pace back and forth without making a transition the reader could follow? Your character's every movement doesn't need to be recorded, but if it feels like a jump cut in a film, go back and fill in the blocking. 
 6 – It's hard to keep track of spelling when you write fantasy or paranormal, as the spell check feature will point out misspellings that don't apply to your world. Use the search-and-replace feature in your word document to keep on top of your original word creations. 
 7 – Be brutal with yourself. It doesn't matter if you've written a tightly-paced scene with lots of great moments. If the scene doesn't move the story forward--if the story can be told and understood without it--get rid of it. Think of all the deleted scenes included on DVD extras. Nice, but the movie worked without them.
 8 – If cutting scenes hurts like a kick to the gut, create a special file and store your edited scenes there. Come back to them for a later book. They might belong to different characters altogether. 
9 – Be ready to let go of a cherished scene even if it's one of the inspirations for the entire story. Its purpose has been served by the book's existence. Don't let sentimental feelings stand in the way of a kick-ass novel.

10 - Are you scrolling through your manuscript, back and forth, back and forth, rereading the parts that don't work but finding a monumental lack of inspiration on how to proceed? Jot down what each scene is about in point form and take a look at the progress of your story from a new perspective. The plot holes or tangles will reveal themselves when you can see the whole forest.
11 – If you're fighting against frustration, take a moment to re-read a few scenes that do work. You love these characters. They're worth all of the hair-pulling and head-banging-against-the-keyboard.

12 – Is there another creative form that really inspires you? Take a bit of time and immerse yourself in that. It will refill your creative well when you find yourself going dry. Remind yourself that these artists also go through what you're going through. It goes without saying how much you appreciate their blood-sweat-and-tears creations. It will all be worth it.  
13 – Have an honest look at your non-writing world. Is there something there that distracts you from your work? Take the time to address these real-world problems. Once you get back to your manuscript, you'll be focused and ready to do some work.  


What are your tried-and-true revision tips?

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  1. Great advice, Julia. I just finished revisions too, and I hit all the bumps you mention. One thing I might add to your list: When I feel stale on the story, I sometimes put it aside and read something in a totally unrelated genre. I guess that falls in with your idea of turning to other creative forms. It helps refill the well.

  2. 8, 10 and 13 are particularly good tips. The value of putting something away for a month or year to get the distance of foreignness to your own words helps enormously.

  3. I wish I had some tips of my own, but I'm a bit of a fumbler, really. LOL! Still, your tips are excellent and worth keeping in mind while I tackle this task.

  4. Great tips. Just what I needed. I'm planning to get into revisions of my NaNo novel today. Thanks.

  5. Use new eyes. It is, after all, re-vision.

  6. Excellent advice, Julia. Trying to leave a gap between writing and editing always helps.


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