Writing Revisions 101

  When I first starting writing my YA novel, I believed my first draft would be a masterpiece. Maybe not the next great American novel, but most definitely publishable. I was absolutely, one hundred percent, without a doubt, certain of this. (Keep laughing, I’m sure you’ve been there too…) Well, surprise, surprise, it wasn’t. Not even close. But despite not hitting a home run my first time at the writing table I just as quickly realized this and returned to my notes to work on revisions.

Revisions are a necessary part of any writing. And if you’re a novice such as myself, then revisions will be even more important a part of the writing process that the actual first draft. This isn’t easy to hear since we all want our fledgling books to take off as soon as we pen that final word to create (can it be true??) a finished novel. However, finished and really FINISHED are two very different things. But, if you can learn from those who have gone before you, then you are well on your way to polishing that novel to the point where you can send those anticipated query letters out without fear of one of them requesting a full manuscript.

While there are many tips, resources, and bastions of advice readily available to aspiring writers, here are a few I came across that I thought were particular good from the June issue of Writer’s Digest. (Paraphrased with personal comments of course…)

1. Give yourself (and your creative mind) time to rest and step back after you’ve finished your first draft. You’re so entrenched in your own story that it’s difficult to be objective and although this will never quite be achieved, you will be more objective after some time has elapsed.

2. Print out a hard copy to read through. I did this because it’s fun to use an old-fashioned red pen to correct my manuscript and it helped me to see things I may not have because of the different format.

3. Read it once through like your targeted reader. Did the overall story make sense? Are your characters developed enough? Are there any slow parts? Make a list to prioritize when you return to the writing table.

4. Analyze each scene and make notes to rewrite as needed. According to Writer’s Digest (and author James Scott Bell) a strong scene will have the following: A single point of view, a clear objective for the character, opposition (conflict) to the objective, a struggle that is felt emotionally by the POV character, an outcome that forces the reader to read on.

5. Details, details, details. Dull dialogue? Add more details! Flat characters? Add more details! Bland settings? Add more details! I understand that you might not want to reach an Austenian level of description, but if you want your readers to be transported to the world you’re creating then adding details is the backbone to doing that.

I found that I was so excited to tell the story and finish my first draft that I brushed past the rounded characters and the gripping scenes and had to go back to add those to my story. Revisions aren’t easy, but you can look at it as a way to get your novel one step closer to publishable form.

Happy writing! 😀


  1. My first novel was going to be so awesome that the first lady was going to come to my town to give me some sort of award. I was 10 and very, very optimistic. I also never got around to actually writing that novel. I’ve toned down my optimism to the point where I don’t expect awards from first ladies and have come to expect that first drafts will be kind of a mess. Revision is a pain, but so far it’s the only way I’ve figured out how to write something halfway decent.

    • Ha! That’s great! 🙂 I had visions of grandeur as well, but am realizing that getting a polished, publishable novel is a little more obtainable goal. 😉

    • Meg
    • September 5th, 2011

    As a reader, I definitely appreciate a tightly revised book! I also do a lot of proofreading for my job so I know all of the work that has to go into proofreading and revising. It’s not always the most fun thing to do but it’s so necessary!

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