If you’ve ever finished a rough draft, you’ve probably felt the rush of victory, the pride of knowing you did it. Maybe even printed it out and stared in awe at the stack of pages that came from your imagination.

And right after those amazing feelings fade, there comes the panic of what now. The horror that anyone may see the awful thing you created. The sheer overwhelming weight of all you still have to do to turn it into a polished manuscript.

That is where I am at right now, and maybe you are too. It’s both exhilarating and terrifying.

For the next couple weeks, Mez and I are going to discuss our thoughts on revising. Basically, our processes of revising our cringe worthy rough drafts into something we can (hopefully) submit for publication.

First things first. Save your rough draft. In several places. Then do ‘Save As’ and save the document as a ‘First Draft.’ I suggest doing this for every draft, with clear names of the story and draft. Sometimes you find you’ve made a change that shouldn’t have been made and you need to go back to a former draft (this is mostly in later drafts, but you can never save too much!)

Revising can seem overwhelming, especially if your rough draft is very rough. Don’t panic! I’ve found the best thing to do is to take it one step at a time, starting with the big picture and then getting down to the nitty-gritty. Revising takes a long time; I know it sounds cliché, but it really is a journey. But hey, good news, you don’t have to get it right the first time!

I recommend a book by James Scott Bell, Revision and Self-Editing. It’s a very easy to read and understand book but gets very in-depth. There are exercises and examples to help you get the handle on different aspects of writing along with an awesome checklist to go through. I pull it out every time I finish a first draft.

revision-and-self-editing-james-scott-bell

Here are some things to keep in mind as you begin the revision process:

  • Save your drafts. Oh, did I mention this already? SAVE SAVE SAVE!
  • If you can, take a bit of a break. It helps to step away for a while. But not too long!
  • Unless you have a very trusted friend (yay Mez!), or a whole lot of self-confidence, or a very good rough draft, don’t show your rough draft to anyone. You’re just inviting criticism, probably a lot of it you already know. Wait until you have a polished draft. And a suit of armor.
  • Make lists and notes. Don’t assume you will remember to change Jeremy’s name to Dennis. Write it down.
  • Do small, easy changes first, the ones that don’t take a lot of time or affect a lot.
  • Yet don’t be nitpicky at first. You don’t want to perfectly polish page after page only to realize you are going to delete all those pages because they no longer fit.
  • Don’t get discouraged! It can all be fixed.

Here are some articles:

Review Your Plot

A Look at Revision

Mez and Bri’s Quick Guide to Peer Editing

Next time, I’ll discuss how I turn a rough draft into a first draft (yes, for me, there is a difference.) I was going to do it this time but, well, it was too long. Heads up, I love revising! I apologize in advance.

Night everyone! My Cadbury Mini Eggs arrive tomorrow, so if I disappear, you can find me eating the entire bag in one sitting with a giant cup of homemade chai, hiding under a warm fuzzy blanket with a book. Heaven.