Revision – What Works for Me

Whoever said revision is what makes your book is, in my view, correct. I like to write the book quickly. I do plan the plot first, but I find that it changes as I write, and for me, that's a benefit.
However, it leaves me with a manuscript that is far from publishable.

These are the three steps I use to clean up the manuscript:

  • First, I print the book and read it as though it was a published book. I mark the places that don't work and note any corrections that leap to the eye. This usually identifies places where I lose the thread of the plot; where scenes are lovely, but don't contribute to the forward motion; and where I lose focus on the characters.
  • Second, I remove the chapters or scenes that don't work; rewrite where necessary; and add new scenes or chapters. I usually find that I have to add more than subtract. I have a tendency to race through the plot leaving out scenes that the reader needs to understand the ending.
  • Third, I do a thorough reread and make editorial changes. This is the place to fine tune wording, make sure typos are corrected and generally clean up the manuscript.

I don't know if this method would work for everyone, and I'm not completely consistent. I'll make wording changes on the first reread, if I think of them, and on the third pass, if a scene doesn't work, it goes.

The process is time consuming and makes you think of your work as if you were asked to critique someone else's, but that's the important point. Once you've finished the ecstasy of initial creation, the rest is work, and lots of it. Characters need to be consistent. Scenes need to add to the flow of the story, typos must be corrected. I find this works for me. Tell me about your revision strategies.

Nancy Famolari
Winner's Circle available from


Margaret Fieland said...

Nancy, great advice. I heartily endorse the "print it out and read it" phase.

One thing I find myself doing in the later phases of revision is secondary thread tightening -- that seems to be one of the things that slip by in the first draft.

Karen Cioffi said...

Great revision advise Nancy. Printing the manuscript really does help.

Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Great advice. I find I have to do what you said many times over on the same manuscript.

Anonymous said...

I'm usually all over the place. Its just a feeling that I think I'm finished. I send the MS to my editor for a read through and he gives me feedback. I'll make any major changes and plug gaps and holes, then its off for the proofreading.

Nancy Famolari said...

Yes, the printing works. I find that if I'm in a different medium, I see different things. Having a collaborator helps too. My husband review the latest draft and made excellent suggestions, so it's back to the drawing board. I wouldn't change it, though. It makes a better product!

Heidiwriter said...

My favorite quote from Hemingway is "There are no great writers, only great rewriters." Revision is an important step in the process of getting your work published.

Anne Duguid Knol said...

I'm also a printer-outer and when I think I'm finished, I run it through my e-reader. Amazing what I find I've missed when I see the book through yet another medium.

Nancy Famolari said...

So glad so many of you like the idea of printing out. It certainly helps me to see it in another medium. Heidi, I agree, it's rewriting that is the hallmark of a real author. Someone else said, "Writing is rewriting." Couldn't agree more!

Magdalena Ball said...

Great points nancy and all worthwhile. One addition I have is that, for anything significant, I always involve someone else. It's virtually impossible for a writer to properly proof their own work - your eyes and brain correct many little errors, so getting someone else (preferably someone picky) involved really makes a difference.

widdershins said...

Follow all three steps, rinse and repeat two and three until done!

Nancy Famolari said...

Maggie, absolutely right. I use my husband. He's my best critic.

Yes, widdershins, sometime it does take repeat and repeat and repeat!

elysabeth said...

Nancy, it seems we are all in a similar spot in our stories. I just released my YA paranormal mystery and am finding that no matter how many times you go through something on the computer screen you will also see things in a different light once the story is in actual book form. Case in point, I had gone through the first proof and made some suggestions for my illustrator who does my book layouts also. Not thinking that anything drastic would change from the minor revisions I asked her to fix, I really didn't look over the PDF file too well. I submitted the file and didn't order a second proof copy (mostly because people that had already ordered a copy were anxious to get the book) and just went ahead and ordered 15 copies of the book. When I was dropping off several copies to one place, I glanced through the book and found some print errors - the beginning letter of some chapters was lower or higher than some others; there were a few last lines of paragraphs stretched out and a couple of other things that were very minor things but to me they stood out. Hopefully, those few errors will be fixed up (she tells me something happened in the word to PDF conversion but that they would be easy fixes, so I hope so) and I will be going through the PDF with a fine tooth comb before submitting the file again.

I also was told by one of the persons who received their copy that she saw a few other things like a couple of typos, missing words (yes I own up to those mistakes) and missing apostrophes from the contractions (maybe not all of them but definitely some of them) which is not something I would have done on purpose but I can partially explain that in that I have some IM chats going on in the book - just a few spots really - and I noticed in the printed proof copy that some of them had the apostrophes which I wouldn't have done in the original since most IM chats are void of punctuation (I type out words fully but don't capitalize or use punctuation in my IMs and that is how I would have done them in the book since it's a natural flow (one doesn't take the time to speak inserting the capitals and punctuation (that's all understood by the listener) and is like speaking to someone in person) and I had asked my illustrator to take the apostrophes out of the IMs and I'm thinking she did a general sweep of the whole manuscript and removed the aprostophes - but I don't know for sure.

Grant it, we are only human and thereby not perfect but we do try for that perfect story to be published. My goal is to publish as near mistake-free stories as possible. E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of Finally Home, a YA paranomral mystery
"The Proposal" (an April Fools Day story), a humorous romance ebook
"The Tulip Kiss", a paranormal romance ebook

Ma America, The Travelin' Maven
Author of the JGDS, 50-state, mystery, trivia series and "Train of Clues" (a mystery destination story and the predecessor to the 50-state series)
Where will the adventure take you next?

Nancy Famolari said...

Elysabeth, you and I are definitely in the same place. In one of my books, Winner's Circle, I got the copies and then found that a word was duplicated on the rear cover. Embarrassing. I know we can't find everything, but going through the book several times and in different formats seems to help. Plus I have a great collaborator in my husband who finds all sorts of problems. He's not a terrific proofreader, but the things he finds are more relevant to the flow of the story!

Good luck with your novel Luckily being self-published we can always make corrections for the next order!!

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