Revision, Rewriting, and Editing Your Novel

NaNoWriMo is officially over, which means nightmares of revision horors are crawling around in the heads of hundreds of writers right about now. Here’s some tips to help guide you through the revision process!


Writing is Hard


Writing is really, really hard. I think this is how you can tell if someone is a writer. If someone tells you that writing is easy, they are probably not a writer. It’s easy to make letters appear on a page. But it’s hard to refine them. And it’s really hard to erase them altogether. But every writer, at some point, has done this. Even though it was hard.

I was once a revision hater, too. I didn’t necessarily think everything I wrote was perfect, but I liked most of it too much to think of editing as anything more than revision – spelling, grammar, syntax. I might have gone back and added quite a bit to my longer stories, but I never went back and changed what was already written. In college I was blessed with the ability to get As without trying too hard. I almost never even proofread my papers, much less revised them. Turns out, this was just as much a curse.

Revision is critical to the writing process. I have always believed this on some level, but not practiced it enough to benefit in any way. The hard part for me is the visualization: here is this rough, lumpy thing that I poured hours and heartbeats into, and now I need to rewrite it, spending more and more hours, and at the end most of those words will be sacrificed so that the pulse becomes stronger.

But how do you make that happen? My strategy so far is to put in the hours. Start at the beginning and literally write it again. Don’t “revise.” Rewrite. At least, that’s the only way I seem to be able to make noticeable, beneficial changes.

Do you have a different strategy I should try?  Or any advice in general on the subject of that process – the writing – that comes after the first draft?