Revising is Hard by Kellie Doherty

As writers one of the key elements of our craft that we all know (and sometimes love) is the revision process. For the uninitiated, revising is normally done after the first draft of a story is written. It’s where the writer goes all the way back to the beginning of the story and makes changes to narrative—adds new twists, deepens some characters, removes others, weaves in new plot elements, etc.—in order to make the story tighter. Better. A more cohesive and gut-wrenching narrative that readers will love. It’s a crucial part of the writing process.

I’m currently revising book three of a five-book fantasy series called The Broken Chronicles. And about 80% of the time, I like it. Diving deep into my story to clarify some confusing worldbuilding, carving away at hunks of description where I may have gone overboard, or weaving in a character backstory that I neglected is fun. Truly, it is.

But sometimes it’s also the bane of my writing existence.

It’s important. It’s necessary. But that other 20% of the time it’s decidedly not exciting. Why? Because it’s work. A lot of work! Do you know how painful it is to extract a plotline woven into your entire story? Work. Have you ever tried to delete every mention of this one specific character, where sometimes you don’t use their name? I do. Do you realize how often you use the word “glowing” and have to change it? Too many times!

And judging by how often I see writers ranting about revising on Twitter and how to leave them alone but also maybe throw cookies their way…I know I’m not the only one who thinks like this. To that end, here are my top three tips to make revising a little easier.

Tip #1: Set a manageable goal. For me, that’s one chapter a session. If I look at everything I have to revise—a whole book full of many, many pages—I tend to get overwhelmed. Having a goal of doing one chapter per session makes it more manageable. Pick whatever goal works for you and your schedule.

Tip #2: Write down big changes. Like many writers, I belong to a critique group where some fabulous people read my chapters and tear them apart to make them stronger. They are far, far ahead of where I’m revising—think chapter twenty-one when I’m only just now revising chapter seven—so what I’ve found to be valuable is writing down the bigger changes they suggest so I can weave them into the beginning. (Like, needing more character backstory earlier, or sprinkling in this world element more.) And you don’t necessarily need to have a critique group to do this either, just write down the bigger changes you know you’ll have to accomplish in this revision. We all know there’s something that could be better in the story—so write it down!

Tip #3: Have snacks at the ready. I am dead serious. As I said before, revising is a lot of work. Sometimes a really rough chapter can take hours to polish, and we writers are a forgetful bunch when we hunker down into our work. I have honestly forgotten about entire meals. Make sure to bring snacks with you before you sit down or have some snacks near your desk that you can grab.

Revising can sometimes be hellish, but it doesn’t have to be. Hopefully these tips make the process a little easier! What are some of your best revising tips?

Kellie Doherty (she/her) is an author of adult science fiction and fantasy. She’s currently working on a five-book fantasy series The Broken Chronicles. After obtaining her master’s degree in book publishing from Portland State University, she decided to move back home to land of the midnight sun—Alaska. During the day, she’s an office assistant and freelance editor, and by night she’s crafting adventures full of magic and daggers…and maybe a few dragons, too. Read more on her website: kelliedoherty.com.

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