In case you haven’t heard, revising is my favorite part of the writing process. I love playing with my words and trying new things. The stress of getting the words is over, and now you can focus on fitting the pieces together like a puzzle.
I’m currently revising a larger project I’m working out, one that’s already over 100 pages on Word but not yet complete. I made it to a point in the story where I got stuck and basically abandoned it. Now I’m rewriting the majority of it to try and move forward in a logical manner.
There’s a lot of different ways I like to revise. The process should be very individualized to every writer and every piece, but here’s my usual code of conduct.
Have a sense of humor.
Ok yes, you should definitely have a critical eye towards your work and take it seriously. But at the same time you need to work past cringing at every embarrassing word phrases or awkward scene or silly line of dialogue. “I can’t believe I wrote that!” sounds better with a laugh than a groan. Chuckle to yourself because no one is going to see this rough draft but yourself.
Get your hands on a hard copy.
I love taking notes on a hard copy of my manuscripts. Double space it, print it out, and grab a colorful pen. Jot down notes in the margins. Highlight or put post-it notes next to crucial details. Flag scenes that need to be moved around. For me, it’s much easier to keep track of all my notes on a piece of paper than instead the virtual document. Now, sometimes it may not be feasible to print out 100+ pages of paper, but use your discretion.
Be honest with yourself.
If something is good, celebrate it and move on. If something isn’t working, even after you’ve played around with it, thank it for it’s time and toss it out. I realized I was struggling to write the rest of a chapter because I knew deep down it wasn’t going anywhere. I had spent weeks agonizing over the right wording and scenes I wanted to portray and throwing away the beginning two pages of the chapter was heartbreaking because I spent so much time staring at an empty screen. Realize that some things will never work out and you may have to cut it if it’s not serving a purpose.
Trade projects with a friend.
Getting some valuable advice is awesome, especially if it’s from someone you trust. If you’ve hit a wall and you know something just isn’t clicking but you can’t figure out what to do, ask someone else to take a look. A fresh set of eyes will catch more errors than someone who’s been staring at the same project for weeks, months, or years.
Go on a break.
That being said, sometimes it’s better to put the project aside for some time and work on something else. See what your other ideas have to offer. Do some writing exercises or try prompts you would normally never reach for. When it’s time, return back to your manuscript with a mature sense of revisions and a positive attitude. Taking a break means you’re one step closer to having a stranger’s eyesight when looking at revising your project.
What are your favorite revising techniques? Do you have any advice for someone just starting to revise and edit some larger pieces and projects?