Monday, April 27, 2009

What Kind of Reviser Are You?

Do you love revising? Or do you hate it? How in depth do you revise? At what stage of the manuscript?

I revised minimally with my first few books mainly because I didn't know what to look for. Then, when I began to learn more and realized there were about a million things to examine, revising became a time-consuming and tedious process. I hated it!

Since I'm an analytical, systematic type of gal, I thought, "I'll form my own revising system and I'll get better!" For the most part, it worked. I write my first draft as polished and as quickly as possible. I don't look back, nor do I revise as I go. When I'm finished, I set the manuscript aside and I revise my previous manuscript--the one I wrote a few months ago. This gives me much needed space to give a critical eye to my work. I won't revise the current book until I finish revising the previous one and I finish writing the first draft of the next one.

I know many of you are weeping in horror. It does seem grievous to "shove Baby in a corner" so soon after writing it. I do it because I get too close to my story, and a slew of little things get overlooked. I need to have a few months distance from a final draft; many other writers don't.

I do lose precious submitting time with this method. If I were to revise my manuscript immediately upon completion, I would be able to query it right away. But I write category romance novels, and I only submit one project at a time. Months can pass before I get a response on a project already submitted. I'd rather have a few terrific manuscripts waiting at home than a few so-so projects waiting on an editor's desk.

Many writers write a chapter and revise it until it's perfect. Then they move on to the next chapter. Other writers write the first draft and then revise it. Some writers write such a wonderful first draft, their revisions are minimal. (Wouldn't that be nice?)

We're all different. What works for one won't work for another. Play around with different methods until you find the one that suits you best.

I actually enjoy revising now. Once I learned that I could drastically improve my book by looking for key things, I found revising pleasurable.

I want to share one widely toted revision tip that works wonders. I'm sure you've heard of it. Maybe you use it yourself?

Read your manuscript out loud.

The spoken word will alert you to words in the wrong sequence. It will point out formal writing. Do you use the same phrase, the same words, over and over? Reading out loud will point them out. Stilted dialogue will scream to get fixed. Reading out loud takes time, but it pays off.

What's your revision process? Do you read your work out loud? I'd love to hear from you.

Join me on Wednesday when we'll discuss the pros and cons of finding pictures to represent main characters.


Get Motivated! It's Monday!


  1. I LOVE revising! It's my favorite part. I'm currently blogging about the stages of writing a novel - and revision is next! I'm excited to write about it because I love it so much. I spend the majority of my time on revision. Three years after writing my first novel, and I still revise it whenever I open it up to read a chapter or two.

  2. I really like your system, Jill! I think if I ever start writing category, I will try your system. I do think it's so important to get some distance from our books.

    It takes me about nine months to write my book from start to finish. (And this includes the initial research stage which I spend a month or more doing.) I'm almost done writing my current WIP, and have begun re-reading and doing minor edits on it. Since it's been months since I've read the beginning, I feel like I do have some distance now, and am able to catch threads and symbolism I need to weave in the end.

    After this initial re-read and once I finish, I'll go back and do the major editing during the summer. This will include all of the edits my critique partner caught as well as the edits from my paid editor. It will take a LOT of work, but I'm looking forward to it!

  3. I read out loud. I kind of work a chapter to death until I'm ready to move on. I really don't like that process. It makes my writing VERY slow. I need to allow myself to have a more pitiful first draft and get it down on paper faster.

  4. Revising is AWESOME!! I get to ENJOY my story instead of trying to figure out where to go next lol :)

  5. I really like to revise because that's when I get the PLAY. :-)

    I usually write the first draft with all of my elements in place and then I have to go back and fine tune everything.

  6. That should read, "get TO play."

  7. I agree with Melissa...revising is when I get to play. It's fun discovering my characters and where the story goes. Then it's a whole different type of fun when I get to make what I have better.

    Reading out loud is a good idea. We often read faster than we speak, which is why we can miss so much. Reading out loud forces us to slow down and asorb more, as well as "hear" the inconsistencies.

    Great post!

  8. What kind am I? One word : reluctant

    Don't get me wrong - I do revise - over and over and over. And I can see that it is an important/vital part of the process. Still, I don't love it.

  9. I...really don't like revising that much. I think, like you, I had no idea what to look for in the beginning. And now that I have a better idea it seems overwhelming. But I've learned to give myself some space from my manuscript after I write it. Not much yet, but I'm learning. It really does help me see the story from a more removed point of view and I am able to edit better. I'm definitely one of those write the whole thing first kind of people, then edit later. I can't imagine revising each chapter after it's written. I think I would lose my momentum!

  10. Thanks for all of the fantastic input! (Sorry it's taken me so long to respond. I had a lovely volunteering day!)

    Katie: Send some of that revising energy this way! And I hear you on the constantly revising earlier works. There's always something to tweak!

    Jody: Nine months and you only write on weekends? You're amazing! I'm sure it must be very helpful having an editor review your work. I hope you share some of those tips on your blog--I'm interested!

    Jennifer: Welcome and thanks for stopping by! If revising each chapter as you write it works for you, then don't try to fight it. I just read an article by a famous author and she said she spends months on her first three chapters to get them perfect then the rest of the book takes little time. You're in good company!

    Jaime: That's true, isn't it? No more head-scratching about the next scene. It's kind of like rearranging the puzzle pieces.

    Melissa: Am I hearing a cackling laugh about getting "to play"? Ha! I write snarky comments to my characters in the margins. Revising can be fun!

    Ralene: Great point about it forcing us to slow down. I'm always surprised to hear words in the wrong order that don't look to be in the wrong order. Are you revising a book now? Or are you in a first draft?

    Cindy: Thanks for coming by! That's why I hated revising too. I didn't know what to look for. Then, when I did, it was extremely overwhelming. Try writing up a revision checklist. It helped me a lot.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  11. Great post!! I love to revise but am forcing myself to wait until it is done and I think like you do, I will set it aside and let if sit awhile before I do.

  12. You have some great thoughts here! I also need time away from my drafts before I can revise completely and effectively. I also read my manuscript out loud. It is incredibly helpful.

    I revise in layers. I've done many posts on this in blog. Just search under "layers" if you're interested. I've found it to be the most effective way for me - and less stressful.

    Relax! Losing "precious" submitting time is no big deal if you're after quality. Rushing is never good!

  13. you just shared my big critiquing secret! i read most everything i crit out loud...and it's amazing how much more you catch! enjoyed this post, jill...good luck with your method. there is reason behind the madness. :)

  14. Terri: I only started "sitting" on my manuscripts about 9 months ago, but it's helped me calm down and evaluate my work better. I'm glad I'm in good company!

    Lady Glamis: Ooo--I'll check out your process. I'm very nosy! I guess you could call my revision process a layering method. I have 4 rounds of revisions, each targeting a specific area. I'm sure it will evolve as I get further in my career, too.

    Jeannie: I love and dread reading out loud. The only reason I dread it is because it's very time consuming! And I wondered if it was just madness...I'm glad there is a method!

  15. I'm a reviser addict, Jill. I think it goes with being a perfectionist when it comes to writing. Gives me a headache just thinking about it.

    I'm with you, though, I need months inbetween editing/revising. It's just I repeat this method over and over so that years go by. At some point I have to learn to stop.

  16. Great post. I'm not so keen on the revision process, but it's gotta be done. I agree with letting the ms cool in the corner so you'll gain distance and a better perspective.

    I don't revise as I write, but when the whole thing's done.

  17. Eilleen: It's hard isn't it? I just copied a section of a query letter I'd sent out earlier this year and found myself re-ordering the sentences. It made me sad because the letter is already out there, you know?

    I will ALWAYS find something to change in every manuscript I write. I have to force myself to submit with the mantra, "This is the best I could do at this point in my life." It helps!

    Angie: Welcome and thank you for dropping in! You don't revise as you go either? Yay! I'm in good company! Good luck on your current wip.

  18. Nice tip. :) I do the same thing: write a draft as polished as I can, then set it aside and revise something previous. It's nice to step back so my eyes are a little fresher when I come back to revise. :D

  19. This is a great post and thanks for your kind comment about my writing. It feels good to be encouraged, especially by someone new. My memoir has 46 chapters and I find that as I near the end, the beginning is all fresh again. I also revise about a month after I've had it critiqued. i reread my notes and understand the changes I need to make more clearly.

  20. Windsong: I also find I'm not as emotional about revising the book after I've written another one. It's all good!

    GutsyWriter: I know your memoir would be fascinating. You have a real gift for showing a moral situation and letting the reader draw their own conclusions. And I definitely want to see more beach pics!


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