Revision Priorities

It’s OK to need lots of revision.

I recently got the comments back from participants in the Washington Novel Revision retreat and one person said, “I came away from the retreat with inspiration and the fact that it’s OK to have lots of revision to do.”

Of course, it’s OK to need lots of revision! I always do! No manuscript is hopeless!

Sol Stein describes revision as triage, the treatment of a patient in an emergency situation, where an evaluation of condition is rapidly made and then treatment focuses on the most pressing issues first, leaving non-life-threatening issues for later. In revision, what should priorities look like? Of course, it will vary, but here are some suggestions:

  • Overall, conflict and resolution. Does the story have a gripping conflict that ends with a stirring resolution? In other words, is the concept for the story solid? Have you carried out your conception of the story?
  • Voice. That frustrating, sometimes intangible thing called voice is what many editors buy. Work to find the right voice to tell this story.
  • Characters are the lifeblood of the story. Infuse new life into them and the story will be stronger.
  • After the basic triage, you can look at Novel Diagnosis and the 30 Days to a Stronger Novel for smaller issues.

When you do Novel Triage, what do you work on first? What is the hardest to accomplish in this phase of revision?


Interested in hosting a Novel Revision retreat in your area? Email me at darcy at for more information.

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