Saturday, June 23, 2012

Valuable Tips from the Trenches of Revision

I recently finished a marathon revision of my novel. In less than one month, I completely revised it chapter by chapter, pitched it online and submitted it. Whew! 
From the depths of the trenches of revision I am offering a few helpful tips from what I’ve learned.

Critique Partner - like MasterCard says... PRICELESS!
I never would have completed the revisions or probably have even started the process without my fantastic critique partner spurring me on, offering advise and being available to read each chapter as I submitted them to her.  
Big thank you to Sandy.
Work Backwards - gets you unstuck.  I worked chapter by chapter in order until I got marred down in the middle.  Then I went to the last chapter and revised it. If you’ve never tried this I highly recommend it. Usually by the time I get to the last two chapters in revision I just want to power through and be done. So this time I spent some time on the last chapter and then the second to last.  Got me unstuck and I learned of some key elements that I needed to tie into earlier chapters. I haven’t tried jumping around, but others have and say that works too.

Search and Destroy -  use it earlier rather than later.  It makes you a better writer. During a time of less energy, I needed a change of pace so I did a search and find on one chapter.  You know the drill looking for those passive verbs, the “ly” or your overused or filler words and then removing them, replacing them, or making sure you haven’t overused them. Let me tell you it woke me up to some of my overused words and I wrote with far fewer of them in the remaining chapters. 
    Here’s my list of those overused or naughty words to search out and destroy.
          was, were, is, are, be, being, been, am, it,
that, there, this, then 
smile, glance, stepped, laugh,sigh
should, could, would, had, have, 
thought, saw, heard, smelled, felt
noticed, might, maybe, before, with, know, some
look, gaze, watched, eyes, hand
start, begin, began, almost, decided to, planned to
like, almost, even, only, some, somehow, something, somewhat,
really, well, just, simply, so, a lot, anyway, rather
suddenly, immediately, extremely, very, every, quite
turn, need
manage, eventually, exactly, finally, nearly, practically, seems, basically,
truly, utterly, sort of,
Deadlines  - keep you motivated and moving forward. Self-imposed or otherwise. I was slogging along losing focus and an online pitch popped into my email. Thankfully, the book you were pitching didn’t have to be finished. I pitched, got a request and boy did I get it in gear.
Hooks - worth the effort. First sentence, beginning of each chapter, end of most chapters and even with a change of POV. 
Submit - a tough verb - and tough to do 
accept or yield to a superior force or to the authority or will of another person : the original settlers were forced to submit to Bulgarian rule.
( submit oneself) consent to undergo a certain treatment : he submitted himself to a body search.
subject to a particular process, treatment, or condition : samples submitted to low pressure.
agree to refer a matter to a third party for decision or adjudication : the U.S. refused to submit to arbitration.
present (a proposal, application, or other document) to a person or body for consideration or judgment : the panel's report was submitted to a parliamentary committee.
No wonder pushing the send button to submit the manuscript to editors and agents was harder for me than birthing my children. With labor I had no choice. Pushing the send button--fraught with angst. 

But in the end I succumbed and submitted.
And I’m doing it all again next month.
Feel free to comment on your wisdom learned from revisions or anything else as well.


  1. Thanks for the tips. I'm revising and editing now. I kept hitting a brick wall, but today, I finally made a breakthrough.

    1. I feel for you and hitting the brick wall. I'm so glad you made it through. Keep on going you can make it through to those to little words "The End." Give the working backwards a try next time you get stuck, or jumping around to another scene or chapter. Best of luck in your revisions and thanks for stopping by.

  2. Hi, Where did you pitch online? I was in the Harlequin Fast Track and submitted a first chapter. These pitch offers create wonderful deadlines!

    1. I agree with you. One online pitch was with Romance University and the second was with Savvy Authors. Both invited a different editor for you to pitch to. Both had different rules. Great opportunity especially for an introvert like me. Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your revisions.

  3. Excellent advice, and I am impressed with your speed of revisions. I am revising; I need to ad word count. I added 6K in a month, but need another 6K. I, too, get stuck. I've heard before that starting from the end is the way to do it, and I will definitely be doing that. My first half is done, but the second half --...

    1. I understand the getting bogged down about half way through, try going for the end now. I only did a couple chapters backwards and it was enough to keep me moving. Good luck with your revisions. I agree adding words is probably harder than cutting.

  4. Thanks for the list. I'm going to save it. I'm always on the hunt for great tips - as I'm ALWAYS editing - aaaagh - does it end? :-)

    1. I hear you about the never ending -- I did a blog post on that too. I am still learning how and when to quit the revising and move on. Good luck with your editing and thanks for stopping by.

  5. Thanks for a great post, partner! Such great ideas--that really work! You're so right about the search and destroy tactic. Once you do it, you're more aware. The hook thing makes me crazy. I'll spend hours or even days on one and end up chunking it! And then the voice of reason sends me an e-mail. Think I'll go work backwards a while.

  6. Good luck on your backwards revising. Save all those hooks, you never know when and where you might need the words or idea. Thanks for stopping by, partner.

  7. Excellent, excellent, excellent, excellent, excellent post!


  8. Thanks, glad you could stop by.

  9. Good for you! I'm a big believer in the multi-colored draft -- different colors for passive use, adjectives, and qualifiers. Having them jump out in different colors helps you pick and choose which to leave and which to change.

    A month is a sane period of time to do a revision. Deadlines are important, because the longer you HAVE to do something -- the longer it TAKES! ;)

  10. I love your last line, the longer you have, the longer it takes. Sounds like a great blog topic.
    LOL I haven't tried the multi-colored revision yet, but I have learned the process. Plan on implementing this soon. Thanks for stopping by Devon and I am looking forward to your class next week.