Tips for Approaching Revision

The post I wrote for GYWO this month was all about how to approach the dreaded revision:

I hate revision.

With my short stories and fanfiction, I always have good intentions of scheduling additional time to let them sit for a while and then go back to them to revise. But most often, I dash off a first draft, scan over it, declare it done, and hit submit.

However, I know from experience that the stories I’ve spent more time on and revised in more detail are better and have been more successful. And, if I ever want to get my novel published, I know it’s going to require a lot of revision work.

So, I have developed certain strategies and found certain tools and resources to motivate me to revise and help me organise my revision once I get started.

For me, external feedback is absolutely key to revision. I find it almost impossible to reread my own work and identify where it needs work. So, I always try and get someone else to look at it and give me feedback. This also gives me a complete break from thinking about the story, so I can come back to it with fresh eyes later.

I’m lucky because I have helpful friends and family members who are willing to do this, and they have definitely helped with the novel. I try not to overburden them with too many requests, though, so I also use Scribophile for short fiction. This is a website where you can post your stories and get feedback from other members and I’ve found it extremely helpful over the last few years. There are lots of feedback sites out there, with varying levels of commitment (you have to give a lot of critiques to receive critiques on Scribophile), and I would recommend trying some.

Most recently on the novel, I paid for a developmental edit, which proved to be excellent, but obviously this requires some financial investment, and it’s important to check the editor’s credentials before you shell out.

Once I’ve got some feedback, the next stage, of course, is to actually do the work!

Luckily, while I hate revision, I love organising information. So, to ease myself in gently and hopefully get me excited about the project again, I go through all the feedback I’ve received and make a big list of all the changes I think I need to make. It’s important to note that I don’t automatically accept every suggestion that is made - I often don’t agree with feedback comments, though I think long and hard about them if multiple people have said the same thing.

Once I have a bullet point list, I get a whole load of coloured pens (yay!) and categorise each point. My categories are generally: background info, character development, plot points and narrative style. I also rate them as to whether they are quick wins, longer points that I can get to work on, or in need of further thought and development. Then I number all the points in the order I intend to work on them (always quick wins first, to motivate me to get started), and I’m ready to go.

It’s very easy for me to get lost in the list-making and joy of coloured pens, so it’s important to have a clear deadline for getting to work. As my husband says, at some point you have to “do the do” rather than just “talking the stuff”.

This all makes the revision process a lot easier and more fun for me - and helps to make sure it actually happens!

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Subsequent to writing this, I've actually launched into my bullet list of revision points for the novel, and it turns out not to be as painful as I thought it would be - though I'm still on the easiest bits. I've also discovered a missing scene and a huge disservice to one of the minor characters, who lost her point of view in the last draft and currently disappears for half the book. I'm in the process of putting all her stuff back in, which I think will make the story stronger - but I may then have to do a whole new raft of revisions to tighten the whole thing up again. It's true what they say - a novel is never done! At some point, you just have to admit defeat. But I'm definitely not there yet...

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