Revisions can easily become overwhelming, especially if you are unprepared for the time and work you must dedicate toward finishing your story.
It is best to remember revisions are merely the next step in the writing process.
But there are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare to tackle revisions:
1. Expect your first draft to be a mess
If you start the revision process expecting your first draft to be perfect and ready for publishing, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
First drafts are meant for exploring ideas and working the story out in our heads.
They evolve with each sentence, and you may find your plot changes many times over the course of the story.
I tend to work out problems as I write.
Sometimes the story starts headed down one path and changes course once the characters take over.
Even if I plot out every detail beforehand, I always end up following my characters and making a mess.
It doesn’t matter how clean or messy your first draft comes out, you’re always going to find something to fix.
Don’t let it bother you. Just accept it and get to work.
2. Remember to stay focused on the story you want to tell
There is more than one way to tell a story. If you need to replot to make it better, then do it.
You should never be afraid of making changes.
There are many paths your characters can take to accomplish the same end while the core of the story remains the same.
However, if you find yourself changing the story so much every revision is like a new book, you might have a problem with your premise or core conflict.
Establish the core story and change the plot as needed to get back on track.
Find the path that best serves the characters and the story you want to tell.
3. Always handle the big picture problems first
There’s no point in worrying about description or dialogue if your story has plot problems, such as lack of conflict, stakes, and character goals.
Or perhaps needs a whole new plot.
If you polish the writing and you change the story afterward, you just wasted your time because you’re going to have to do it all over again.
Get your story in order, then add in the finishing touches. Your story will be all the stronger for it.
4. Dedicate yourself toward improving the story
Revision takes time to complete and sometimes the amount of work needed can overwhelm us.
The desire to call it done well before it is ready can get stronger the more time passes.
If you want your story to be successful, you must be willing to make it the best you can.
You don’t want to publish, only to regret it when the reviews start rolling in.
Never quit when there is still more to do.
The more work you put into the story, the happier you’ll be with how it turned out, no matter how it sells.
5. Cut anything that doesn’t belong
It can be hard to let go of our writing, even when it no longer serves our stories.
Scenes no longer work. Favorite lines no longer fit, no matter how we might try.
You brought them to life, so trashing them can be like letting one of your babies go.
But trying to force them to work can ruin even the greatest of stories.
The thing to keep in mind is just because it doesn’t work for this story, doesn’t mean it won’t end up used somewhere else.
Don’t throw them away and forget they ever existed.
Save them in another file. You never know when you might use them.
Ideas are meant to be used.
And you never know, that perfect line of dialogue might be waiting for you just when you need it most.
6. Trust your instincts
If something doesn’t feel right, more than likely something needs to be fixed.
The solution might not be immediately apparent, but if it feels off to you, it’s bound to feel ten times more to your readers.
Always trust your gut when making revisions. You’ll never regret it.
Is there anything else we can do to make the revision process easier?
FOR FURTHER READING
Renea strives to help writers develop the focus and skills they need to finish their first novel, offering writers practical writing advice they can apply one step at a time.
She is the author of Conquering Writing Pressures: Living a Balanced Writing Life in a Busy World where she helps writers find the courage to accept life will never be perfect. And if we want our dreams to succeed, we must fight to make them a reality.
She currently lives in St. Joseph, Missouri, with her husband Joe, her three children, and her five lovable furballs.
From a young age, Renea was mad for books and reading, and especially loved Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, which she read in the ninth grade.
She is an avid reader, with her main interests residing in history, mythology, and fantasy, along with some romance and science fiction in her earlier years.
When Renea’s not writing, she enjoys genealogy, role-playing games, and dreams of traveling the world. In a past life, she plucked chickens and milked cows.