Humorous Look at Novel Revision


How to revise a novel and build a career as a noted author – a humorous look

  1. Write the first draft of a novel. That should be easy.
  2. After a month or more off, reread the novel.

  4. Take strong meds for your upset stomach.
  5. Highlight every golden word, phrase, sentence, paragraph or emotional moment in your story.
  6. Wonder why your entire story is highlighted.
  7. Print out fresh copy and try number four again, this time being honest.
  8. Remove everything not highlighted.
  9. Reread.
  10. Rejoice in your extremely intelligent, emotionally touching words.
  11. Take the first scene or chapter and reread it. Turn the pages over. Totally rewrite that section. Throw away the old section and never look at it again.
  12. Repeat number ten until the entire novel is rewritten.
  13. After a month or more off, reread the novel.
  14. Repeat numbers 2-12, six more times. Really. Seven revisions with this method is the perfect number. Perfection.
    Note: it is cheating to go back to number one and start the process all over again. To date, I’ve cheated exactly eight times. And I’ve paid a heavy price for that cheating. Please, don’t do it.
  15. Send manuscript off to your editor or agent of choice.
  16. All of that should have taken you seven years, a year per draft, so you’re now seven years older. While your agent sends out the manuscript to carefully selected editors in a single-submission, exclusive strategy, repeat from number one. Somewhere in there, you’d better pick up bike riding or yoga — or both — to keep your body going while this wonderfully productive career of yours takes off.
  17. Finally, fourteen years after that first draft, sign your first contract and send in your second manuscript. And when your editor asks if you can do the requested revisions in seven-and-a-half days, you say yes. Repeat number three before you try to comply.
  18. Do the requested revisions in seven-and-a-half hours. Yes, those last fourteen years of apprenticeship have really trained you how to write.
  19. Sit back and enjoy your new career! It was a long apprenticeship. But you made it.

Anyone have advice on shortcuts?

  • Kristin
    August 26, 2009

    I’m not shooting for being a noted author. So I do believe in shortcuts.

    I recommend throwing out point 10 unless you have a truly compelling reason for pitching out all your old words. First drafts often have plenty of energy. I recently found myself looking over the first scribbled rough draft of SAVING THE GRIFFIN. The actual conversation between my two main characters made it almost word for word into the first page of the book.

    What’s a good reason for doing a massive revision such as the one in point 10? I actually did this once for my first novel-length manuscript about 13 years after I finished it the first time. I’d grown quite a bit as a writer, but when I went back to the project, I could tell that I was just nibbling around the edges of the story. So I changed my main character’s family background and commenced on the revision. But I did look at the original pages just to make sure that there wasn’t anything that I wanted to put back in for a true synthesis.

    And how about point 13? The seven complete from the ground up revisions? Uh, no. But I keep myself open to discovering new things about my characters with each sweep through the manuscript.

    So what are my numbers? I’ll have close to three published novels in twenty plus years of work. Along with that, I have three projects circulating and four that are in the desk drawer.

  • Shari
    August 28, 2009

    Ahaha! Excellent post and – unfortunately – all too close to reality, lol.