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HOW TO REVISE YOUR BOOK IN 5 EASY STEPS


Hahahahahahahaha. Just kidding.

There is no way easy way to revise your book, particularly those early drafts.

But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it. — Colette, Casual Chance, 1964

Just know that your feelings of dread and despair—and occasional bouts of hemorrhoidal bleeding—are normal. No way around it, while not exactly agony, revisions can be a slog. Which is, truth be told, the reason I spend more time these days editing my clients’ books than reworking my own manuscripts. I just can’t face the same pages [again!].

But when I have found success with revisions, it has never been because I felt like working on revisions. It has happened when I have committed myself to the effort, if not to a finished product by a self-imposed deadline. Here are some ideas that have worked for me and other writer friends, to varying degrees:

  • Revise under the heat of a contest submission deadline; rinse, lather, repeat.
  • Print out your essay, chapter or chapters, stack them beside your laptop, and retype each page into a new document—you will not believe the way it sort of revises itself, and all the elements that don’t belong volunteer to stay behind in RD1.
  • Agree to be a reader at a local reading and refuse to read anything previous published or publicly read.
  • Actually implement the feedback of your trusted readers or editor.

So I talk a big game, and I’m here at least to give you a sense of solidarity. It’s hard, it’s unpleasant, but when you give in to the revision zone and hunker down awhile, the real writing happens. As if by alchemy. I’m sure I can dig up some quotes to support this statement, but why reinvent the wheel when reader, writer, wolf-girl Emily Temple already put together such a fine collection, 20 Great Writers on the Art of Revision, for Flavorwire?

Also, my literary boyfriend David Mitchell reminds us:

Get disciplined. Learn to rush to your laptop and open it up. Open the file without asking yourself if you’re in the mood, without thinking about anything else. Just open the file: and then you’re safe. (Source: The Atlantic)

My Literary Boyfriend (Source: The Guardian)

My Literary Boyfriend
(Source: The Guardian)

 


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