Tips for Tackling Revisions

So you finished your rough draft and celebrated accordingly. Congrats! But you’re not done yet, not by a long shot. Next comes revision. Now a lot of people use revising and editing synonymously, but the two are different. Editing deals with line-by-line corrections and grammar. It polishes your writing and is the final phase your manuscript will go through. Revision comes first. It involves major changes like filling in plot holes, rewriting entire scenes, strengthening weak writing, rearranging chapters, etc. You revise for the bigger picture. Let’s take a closer look at revisions.

First, take a break. Once you’re finished your first draft, set it aside for two weeks to a month before you revise. It’s important to be able to revise with fresh eyes to really see what is and isn’t working in your manuscript. Your brain needs that break to get a fresh perspective. It’s hard to put your WiP down, but it’s worth the struggle. Give your draft time.

Make a list of big picture problems. Forget about grammar and punctuation. You’ll deal with those in editing. For now, look for plot holes, scenes that aren’t working or don’t advance the plot, on the nose dialogue, and wooden characters. List all your issues as you read through your draft to help organize your revisions.

Prioritize your list of issues and group similar problems together. Which choices are the most important? Start tackling your list there.

Revise in phases. I like to write and revise in layers, meaning in a scene I’ll start with the skeleton and then add muscles and skin to flesh out the scene. For instance, I’ll start out with a chunk of dialogue. Then I’ll go through and add body language and gestures and action tags. The next pass is for exposition and narrative to push the characters and plot forward. Then I’ll do a final layer of internal monologue and character thoughts. Doing each in phases keeps me focused and makes sure I’m adding depth in each layer rather than jumping back and forth between processes in one go over.

First drafts are rough. They’re messy and difficult and need a lot of work to fix them. And that’s okay. Your first draft may seem awful but you’ll fix all that in revisions. So don’t give up and happy revising!

Julia

Follow my column at Our Write Side and Twitter for more writing tips and inspiration. Find me on Facebook for weekly prompts.

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