The Dreaded “R” Word: Revisions

Before I left for the Midwest Writer’s workshop, I had been working on a Southern Literature piece called Little Birdhouses. I wrote Little Birdhouses almost a year ago. It sat in a drawer gathering dust and vintage while I worked on finishing up No Turning Back and The Devil Within, and I pulled it out to start revisions in May. I’m a horrible procrastinator, as I’ve talked about before, and I didn’t get far with my revisions before wanting to stop. Something about the ending didn’t click in the correct way. It frustrated me not to know what wasn’t working!

At #MWW15, I attended Lori Rader-Day’s session on #AmEditing. When I edit, I think I tend to go for the little things first. Lori Rader-Day said there are no rules to editing but top-down editing, i.e. looking at the bigger picture, is probably the place to start first. In other words, don’t get caught up in the little things until the big things are fixed (there is a life lesson here too). The three types of editing are:

  • Structural — Also known as developmental. Big Picture. Print off your work. Read it OUT-LOUD. Look for scenes that are repeats, don’t make sense, or are in the wrong places. Look for anything that might need to be cut.If you notice smaller areas, such as line edits to be done make a comment to fix it, but do it later.
  • Line Editing — Fixing individual lines. Cutting lines that don’t make sense. Grammar.
  • Copy Editing — Proofreading. Getting ready for copy. Improve format and style of the text.

Rader-Day spoke a lot about how editing works at the publication level too. The big take-away there for me is not to be afraid to cry, but don’t let it deter you from the work to be done after you’ve used up your whole box of Kleenex.

And finally, here are Rader-Day’s FIVE HACKS for editing:

  • Pair Up With Another Writer: This helps you, as the author, to figure out what you hate about your own writing. Sometimes, we know something is missing or not working, but we can’t put our finger on what it is. Often critique partners can help point out what the missing piece is.
  • Plotters: Go through and make sure the plotting didn’t stifle the writing. (I think this is what she said, but I’m a pantser, so honestly I just wrote down the word plotter and moved on — Sorry!)
  • Pantsers: No, not someone who likes to de-pants someone, but someone who writes without outlining. A pantser may be lost in the book, so it could be helpful for them to reverse engineer and outline. This way they can see the story ARC and figure out what can happen next if they’re at a point where things aren’t working.
  • Save As: Save all your revisions as a different file, so you don’t delete something permanently that might actually work! I suggest saving to the Cloud, hard drive, and sending to your email. You want to make sure to have back-up.
  • Write Book Jacket Copy For Story: This narrows your focus and helps the author remember what they wanted to say in the book in the first place!

Do you have any editing tips that work for you? 

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4 thoughts on “The Dreaded “R” Word: Revisions

  1. Nice post, Laureen!
    What helps me is doing editing in small increment. Not planning “I’ll go through a chapter today”, but setting a timer for 1 hour. This way it doesn’t matter whether I did a page (because it was a very bad page) or ten, and it’s not discouraging when you do less that day for any reason.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe I should try this. I’m trying to get an overall picture view of my book. Thus, the printing and reading aloud. Thank you for your thoughts! I love being on this writing journey with you.


      • Hmmm… I’m more on the line edits really. I’m a heavy plotter, know the story by heart, and I’ve read it out loud to my bf as I wrote it, so I don’t have a lot of heavy structural issues (the most I’ve crossed out so far is a page).
        I think if you’re trying to get an overall picture, you should try printing it out and then sitting down with it _as a reader_. Read it (if you can find time, in one go), and just mark things that made you cringe. Then… with the book still fresh in mind, read it again (you will more likely spot redundant and “doubled” scenes). Only then move on to fixing things.
        And thank you 🙂 I’m happy to have you to exchange the experience with too!

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s what I’m doing with Little Birdhouses. I’m reading it and highlighting any places where the theme is, making sticky notes on what characters show up in which chapters, what the line for the chapter is, and then just circling or highlighting sentences to be worked on. It’s working well, and I think it’s going to make this novel so great! It’s interesting your a plotter! I didn’t know that. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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