Monday, 6 August 2012

Revision Fever

You're excited. You're ready to revise your book. To polish it into a gem that no agent will be able to resist. You imagine it will take no more then a couple of weeks, after all it doesn't
need much work does it? The hard bit was writing it, getting all your thoughts down on paper. Editing it will be easy peasy lemon squeezy.

And then you get your manuscript out from where you hid it many weeks ago, you sit down to savour the words, to read through your masterpiece and ...
All you can see are problems, enormous plot holes, one dimensional characters, shoddy dialogue...

This won't take a couple of weeks to fix, it it will take months, years, forever!
You have a minor breakdown.
Consider burning your m.s.
Contemplate a change of career...the circus perhaps? Easier to be fired out of a canon or to wrestle lions then to revise your book.

After some therapy (otherwise known as several large Vodkas) you calm down. You can do this. All you need is a plan.

1. Print off m.s -
2. Read m.s aloud (preferably when alone as sniggering can affect creative juices)
3. Scribble all over m.s with red pen.
4. Make notes on what needs to be done, chapter by chapter.
5. Start Revision.
6. Several weeks/months/ decades later you finish.

 Absolutely. Positively. Finished.

Allow brief celebration. (Also known as vodka)
Spend some time catching up on life, talking to your family, reminding your friends you're still alive.

A couple of weeks later take out your m.s, get ready for a final polish, but then, what's this?
Plot inconsistencies? Weak protagonists? Soggy middle? Unsatisfying ending?


After much more therapy (also known as getting pi**ed) you calm down, you remember your plan.

Repeat steps 1 to 6.

At some time during this process you will question your sanity. You will decide that the revision is worse then the original. You will scream and shout and pull out your hair. You will look at your m.s and have absolutely no idea if it's any good or not. You may consider becoming a llama farmer in tibet.

This is revision fever. It is a disease. As a writer you will go through it many times. No medicine can help (well, except for vodka, obviously) and the only thing that may save you is your crit group/ supportive writer friends who will at least understand. Who can assure you you're not entirely mad (just a bit) and will be there at the end when you're finally ready to submit. They will warn you of the next disease you will encounter - submission psychosis....

More on that next week dear friends.
Till then, have you any revision tips? Words of wisdom?


  1. I've repeated steps 1-6 many times already, and I do indeed have a small breakdown every time I realise I need to do them again. But every time (mostly) I do feel I am making improvements and when I compare what I have now to my first draft I can see how far I've come. I still have a long way to go though. Argh.

  2. It does help if you can see improvement - the worst times are when you seem to go sideways!! Not improved necessarily just changed!