How to Revise Your Work

by Meredith Cole

The writing process can be summed up like this for me:

  • Attempt to roughly flesh out and outline my story before I start. Figure out if I have enough for a novel, or if it really needs to be something else (a short story, poem or one-act play).
  • Take a deep breath and start writing. I give myself a word count and goals (I love goals!). The pages start piling up. It does not go like my outline. It never does. I run into lots of issues and attempt to write my way out of them.
  • Reach the end (months later). Take another deep breath. Set aside the manuscript until I have some perspective (or can’t stand waiting any longer).
  • Print out the book and read it. Write all over it. Despair. Throw out huge sections and figure out what needs to be there instead. Rewrite. Repeat previous steps.
  • Figure out what my book is really about. Despair. Throw out sections, revise, rewrite, repeat.
  • Have someone else read it. Fix typos, make more revisions.
  • Go through and look for passive voice and annoying words/phrases that I use all the time. (Must everyone shrug? Really?) Make sure I’ve fixed all the mistakes (Bill’s name needs to stay consistent throughout the book, darn it!).

And then eventually I do stop revising. Why? Either because I have a deadline or I’m just changing stupid stuff now or I’m just exhausted. Maybe the book could be better. Maybe it hasn’t lived up to its full potential. But it’s not going to get better with another rewrite by me. So I declare it done. For now.

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