Revising Your Novel: Where To Start



hi everyone Alexa done here and stay I am finally talking about a topic that has been often requested and that is actually really dear to my heart but I I just hadn't done it yet and that is revision where do you start revision is a huge topic again one of my favorites I adore revising but I've been drafting pretty much since I started this channel so that's that's probably why I haven't done revision yet I've been in drafting mode I'm still drafting but I can't wait anymore to do revision it's too requested too many times this is really revision 101 literally how do you start I will do more in-depth videos on the nitty-gritty of revision I will also take requests and specific questions as always you can drop any questions down below that you have about revision specific questions broad questions and I will definitely use those to make subsequent videos on revision so first revision where the heck do you start so first just a nice reassurance revision is hard revision can be super super overwhelming so if you are in that stage you're dreading it you don't know what to do you're like I mean first of all you're like how did that how did I write a book a book it's a whole book it's like this big it's you know my my first drafts sometimes are over a hundred thousand words and I'm like that's that's that's a lot of words huh especially if you know you've got a messy draft it can be especially overwhelming because you don't know where to start and the instinct can be to run screaming from the room or to tackle your revisions hastily and sloppily which is the worst thing that you could do because ultimately it's not really gonna improve your book but you might feel like you're done with revision when you're really not ultimately revision is an exercise in organization and strategy which I know sounds super super daunting but the good news about revision and I'm going to go through this in some of my other steps is that there's kind of a sliding scale of how intense you have to be or want to be when it comes to that organization strategy I do have some tips for ways to tackle it so it is less overwhelming but you might want to do a massive crazy organizational plan and tackle it you know with extreme precision it really depends on your process in your personality so it takes all types so step one is actually super easy theoretically speaking and that is to put your novel away put it away step aside don't look at it don't jump right into revision especially not if you're you know on the more beginner and novice end and this is your first book that is the worst thing you could do because you do need a little bit of distance now if you've watched previous videos you might know it's you know do as I say not as I do I don't leave a lot of time for my book to rest because I do tend to jump right into revision because of pantsing so meaning it's it's almost like continuous drafting for me meaning I get to the end or near the end and I already know how I need to fix the book because I've been pantsing it um but I still do let things sit so on the like whoa and give it at least a week give it two weeks if you can and even better give it a month I think a month is really reasonable it's actually great to take the break period creatively you need to watch some TV you missed you need to go to the movies you need to see your friends who you haven't seen in a while because you were in a drafting cave that's just good for your emotional well-being have a bit of fun this is also part of refilling the creative well but it most importantly revision is the different mode than drafting typically because you have to utilize a different skill set for revision so I find it's good to take that break to basically switch your brain over but also to gain distance from the material so this step step one is the best time usually to give your book to a beta reader or a critique partner because you can get their feedback on your book and getting an outside opinion if you can incorporate their thoughts and questions into your revision plan and sometimes when you do give it to a beta reader or critique partner your let the books that time has to be longer because they need more time to read the book I will say the longer you can let it sit quite often the more fresh you will come to the book you know if you can let it sit three months even six months it might be the best possible thing for the book but it really depends on you so step two is to then read your book again you want to read it and come at it a little bit fresh hopefully you've given it enough time to rest in some cases this step two might be giving it to critique partners if you didn't give it to them in step one it depends on your process but as you are reading you want to take notes if you can they can be mental notes or they can be physical notes you want to note places where your intention didn't make it onto the page like oh I wanted to show that character a went from feeling this to feeling this but I'm missing a transition you want to look for places where even you're bored of your writing you want to look for places where you realize you left out critical information or where you realized you dumped too much information you want to look for places with white prints and Rome or dialogue scenes that go on too long I could go on you but generally broadly you want to look at pacing characters arcs conflict stakes and tension these tend to be the big picture things that you're going to look at oh also related to pacing and plot foreshadowing any elements that happen later especially if you did kind of if you find that the last third is really tense and action-packed and exciting you might need to work these into your revision plan to thread things better throughout the story or cut words earlier so the pace thing works better every book is different and there's a million ways to revise and the problem is there's always a different cocktail of what might be wrong with your novel that you might need to work on so I'm never gonna be able to do like the you know best prescriptive video on revision but these are just some things that you want to think about while you were reading and when it comes to CPS I highly recommend you ask them to ask you questions you want to find out from them any place they were confused or they had a specific question or also where they're bored you want to take this feedback and incorporate it into your revision plan because this is gonna identify for you issues that you have in your book but also specific places where you might need to address things so step 3 is taking all of these notes and questions ideas and identifying the core issues that the book has so it might be pacing it might be the main character arc it might be the romance it might be a few things in concert but you can always find an insane laundry list of things wrong with the book earth or that you want to fix but I do generally recommend compartmentalizing with your revisions of it and that is focusing just on core issues especially the things that impact the skeleton of the book the backbone of the book ie the things we're changing them are gonna have the most ripples on the story and/or making them work making them better will make the story click into place and make it a magic novel that could go somewhere maybe with a few more changes but so you want to I think that you should start with those core backbone things that are going to make or break your book and just a few common issues that I find happen a lot in first drafts that you can look for I've covered these in some other videos especially common mistakes that newbie writers make videos and that just is places where you rush your pace thing this tends to happen most often at the end of books places where you're dragging you're pacing this happens most often in the beginning or the middle of the book it's called the muddled middle or the muddy middle for a reason you also want to look for character soup where you have too many characters and you want to eliminate or streamline characters to make often the pacing tighter you want to look for inconsistent characterization that's kind of the author intent versus what actually makes it onto the page you don't want to give your characters or your readers emotional whiplash and last but not least you want to look at continuity so literally this thing appears on this page and then I never mentioned again or this this thing comes up at the end of the and it's never been mentioned before you want to look for kind of those like anomalies so that you can thread things better through the book or just get rid of something that is mentioned once and is completely meaningless but stands out so when you're identifying these problems you want to brainstorm a bit of how you might fix them you don't have to always arrive at like the perfect solution right away but I do recommend brainstorming and again you can do this kind of in your head you can write it down one method for this I've done what I call the notecard method and that is I identified my core problems on a series of note cards and I use the note cards to brainstorm the note cards noted the page that thing was on or the part of the book and I would jot down a few ideas for how I might fix it and then I could go back to those cards and kind of look at it when it came time to actually tackle the issue that's just one suggestion that is something I have done in the past that has worked for me I also in all my later books I do just bullet-pointed lists in like a notepad file if you do bullet journaling you could do that in your bullet journal just like it really depends on your mental process and kind of how you work and you might have to do some trial and error before you figure out how you work and so step 5 is essentially then getting concrete with those court issues and it kind of ties in to what I just mention with note cards that's one way and that is actually solidifying and identifying the things that you need to fix if you do like a lot of organization I highly recommend susan dennard supervision method period and i'm gonna link you down below or you just go to her site it is susan dennard comm / 4 – writers it is fantastic amazing resources and her revision resources I that's the method that I tried when I revised my first book and it was almost too anal retentive organizational for me and the way that I work but trying all of Susan's different things helped me identify the Nuggets that did work for me so it's a method that I do recommend for newer writers who don't know how to revise but as I said you could do the bullet-pointed list you could do the note cards but you're you're you've boiled down the core issues and now you're basically making them real by writing them down so step 5 is set a deadline and make a plan so deadlines these are gonna vary widely I can't like give you a prescriptive you should be revising in this amount of time so I'm a very fast advisor so for me I can depending on the revision I can turn around a revision in a week Ted these two weeks my revisions tend not to go longer than four to six weeks personally because I thrive off of tight deadlines and doing everything all at once but this might be stifling or unrealistic for you depending on the revision and I will say some backbone revisions simply take more time because they are overwhelming they have more ripples sometimes you have to throw out material and write new material and I would say the sweet spot for most writers is probably two to three months extending out to six months I think that's a pretty good window especially if you are really reworking an entire book a messy draft or something where you do have to do a lot of rewriting in order to make the story work but you also take the time that you need to take to do it also say that I am a faster advisor and I'm efficient and I'm pretty good at it some people are faster advisors and they're not efficient the revisions are sloppy so you always have to kind of balance the time spent with the quality of the revision longer revisions aren't always more quality shorter revisions aren't always sloppy but it really depends on the writer and how you approach the work but set a deadline for yourself because I do think it's good to be working towards something now it can just be a random deadline that you think is realistic to what you can achieve it could be a deadline like there's a contest I want to enter a pitch thing I want to enter so I have to be done by X date these kind of deadlines can be really really helpful because it gives you something to work for toward and it like it smacks you it in you know it smacks you in the butt I don't know why I keep using that metaphor um you know it kind of motivates you to actually put your nose to the grindstone and do the work but then you have to decide how you're actually going to tackle the revision and there are different ways to do this and this is definitely one area where I will I could do a whole on this let me know down below if you want to see this sooner rather than later and that is what I would call a linear revision versus a nonlinear revision so I would consider a linear revision where you start at the beginning of the book and you comb through the book chapter by chapter scene-by-scene chapter by chapter beginning middle end and you revise an order basically now you can do a linear revision focusing on just one thing so let's say you do a linear revision starting at the beginning reading and working through the whole book just focusing on the romance arc or just focusing on the the pacing just focusing on character arcs or you can do a linear revision where you work on a lot of things simultaneously I will say that this kind of revision it's kind of like a level two revision I I wasn't capable of doing this kind of revision when I was a newer writer but it's something that I'm capable of doing now depending on the book so that is – so I'll tell you with brightly burning uhm I've only done linear revisions but meaning I have simultaneously deleted characters added characters added foreshadowing worked on the character arcs worked on the romance arcs I've done all of this simultaneously starting at the beginning of the book working on a bunch of different things as I go through it's not easy and it does require a bit more mental organization and you have to be in the right headspace to tackle it so I've also revised not linearly and I also really enjoy this and this is where you jump around the book and you tackle things not based on the chronology like start to finish but you tackle things by topic so this might mean you work on foreshadowing and you might actually start at the end you might start by tweaking the conclusion of the mystery and then going back to the middle and fixing the middle and then working on the beginning or whatever you can work out of order on specific things so you might do for shadowing working on the beginning middle and end then separately you work on the romance you start in the middle and then you go to the end like you can work out of order on targeted different things typically if you are gonna do a nonlinear revision you do have to finish it up at the end with a linear continuity pass because typically when you work out of order you're gonna create ripples and then you're gonna do essentially a continuity edit continuity edits usually only take a couple of days if you are starting at the beginning and you know what you've thrown out of whack with your changes so those are two very different ways that you can tackle revisions I will say that when I do lot nonlinear edits that's when I'm looking at my scene cards or my note cards or my bullet-pointed list and I basically pick and choose the thing I want to work on depending on how I feel that day the benefit of a non-linear revision is they can in many ways feel less overwhelming but also they give you the ability to revise depending on how you're feeling where you're at so if you're feeling like you want to get some work done you want to get some progress done today but you just you can't tackle a big rewrite of a chapter for example you just mentally and emotionally don't want to do that but you can easily tackle chopping you know cutting down that dialogue scene or adding setting details to that scene that has white room syndrome that is a small manageable thing you can do on the day regardless of where it is in the manuscript I find that those types of revisions can be I mean it's a breath of fresh air especially if you are overwhelmed but that's just me personally but again I've also really enjoyed doing a linear revision where I just start at the beginning went all the way through only did essentially one revision pass just a very involved one and then finished now about deadlines um I think it can be really helpful to set realistic micro goals on like a day by day even hour-by-hour basis and this is just oh it's almost like a carrot and a stick so that you're like it's really easy to get overwhelmed when you're like in six weeks I have to finish the whole book but you can set little smaller deadlines for yourself like headlights deadlines like okay this week I'm going to do the first hundred pages or this week I'm going to rewrite this section of the book these four chapters need to be revised rewritten rearranged you can focus on little things it could even be you know five pages a day like that kind of metric think about whatever micro goals are going to work for you with this particular revision to kind of push you along because just sitting down and looking at a long list of things and looking at a long timeline or even a short timeline it's really easy to become overwhelmed and like kind of meltdowns so I'm really suggest have like dividing it into manageable chunks now step six is getting your tools and getting to work and just some of the tools that you might need or might prove helpful either in combination or by themselves some people print the whole book put it into a binder they use tabs color-coded systems and sharpies and all sorts of things this is actually one kind of the core of Susan tennard's method as I mentioned that I tried on my first book so that might be the tools that you need you might need to print the manuscript in by tab dividers and pens and have a folder you might need Scrivener Scrivener has some great revision tools they have the split screen function and all sorts of things so maybe your tool is Scrivener your tool could also be Microsoft Word and it could be you know your CP gives you track changes and that's one of the tools that you need it could be no cards as I mentioned because you're gonna boil things down to your note cards it could be your journal like your bullet journal or your a passion planner or whatever you're using to keep yourself organized and motivated you could buy a whiteboard and if you keep your notes there so you have a physical representation that's maybe it lives in your writing space and you can you can frame storm on it you can check things off generally a checklist is a really good tool that could really really help so those are just some of the like tools that either I use all right now other people use or just things that I'm literally just throwing them at you in case it jogs something in your mind where you're like oh that tool might be useful for to me because you basically want to arm yourself with the things that are either gonna get you excited about revision or keep you organized near vision oh I didn't even mention that you can literally use cookies you could motivate yourself like when I do ten pages I get i get to eat dessert there are all sorts of things that you can use to you know have tools and motivate yourself to get this revision done Oh another tool could be a critique partners there's so many tools so but step six is to arm yourself the things you need so that you can focus and get the work done and then honestly you just have to take the plunge and do it revision is weird as I mentioned it's a different process for every writer it's a different process for every book I have not revised any of my books the same way I have even my different revision rounds are different the way that I tackle them you know my revision between submission rounds while it was technically linear I each section had a separate issue so it felt like a nonlinear revision because I had to hyper focus on the different parts of the books that had parts of the book that had different issues so it it was a different brain space than my previous revision so you always have to be open and flexible and be willing to pivot and try different things until you figure out what's gonna work for you so that's it that's how to get started it is easier said than done but maybe some of these concrete ideas and tips and tricks will help jump-start you so seriously I mention it already questions down below please because I'm happy to answer them because I adore revision I genuinely love revising I love revising more than I love drafting so I cannot wait to finish the draft of my current book so I can revise it I'm so so excited and I will definitely be doing process videos as I revise the book and I like who knows how I'm gonna revise this one we're gonna find out so questions down below because I do want to do more videos in depth videos on revision because it is there are a million different ways to do it so there's a lot of things to talk about so thank you so much for watching if you already subscribed to the channel thank you so much if you're not subscribed feel free to subscribe I post new videos two to three times a week on why a traditional publishing industry crafts all of those things that's always everyone happy writing

35 thoughts on “Revising Your Novel: Where To Start

  1. I revise as I go. like the week I'm watching this I'm commenting this, I haven't completely finished the book and I find it easier to revise as I go.

  2. I'm having a really hard time finding a GREAT beta reader for my psychological thriller……………. does anyone know of… anyone??????

  3. How do you tackle combining characters? I'm combining my main character with a secondary perspective character to strengthen the MC. Reenvisioning their story line(s) and weaving their new scenes into the rest of the story is making me pull my hair out.

  4. Alexa, or anyone in the comments, what is a good way to find a critique partner you can trust?

  5. Finishes first draft….watches all of Alexa Donne’s videos in a single sitting because Alexa says I need to refill my well.

  6. Glad I watched this! I finished my first draft (hooray!) but have been overwhelmed with getting it into shape for quite some time now (long enough, in fact, that I won't even mention how long!). But this helps me as I prepare myself mentally to tackle it and hopefully prove to myself that I can do it.

  7. Found your ebook at my library. After listening to all your videos, I can hear your voice in this book! It’s almost like you’re reading it to me 😂

  8. Alexa! I saw your book at my local book store in South Africa. I can't imagine how amazing you must feel to have your words travel so far away from home. Love the video ♥️

  9. on one of my WIP I am at 233k pages. It is a lot, but the story isnt completely told yet.

  10. I am a newbie, and I just finished the first draft of my first novel and the 234 pages and the 103,455 words are a little intimidating. BTW I am 12 and as you are reading this you must not believe me and you probably think that its really bad and a twelve year olds weird imagination but I ran it through 5 friends one of which is a writer. And he has successfully novels his name is Branko Gradisnik and he thinks it's great. This video has helped me in revising and thank you so much….. I love you

  11. I tend to do A revision straight away just because I can't stand leaving it in first draft mode but then I leave it for a few months until I do a Proper revision

  12. What do you do If a chapter is hot garbage, but the story is flat without it??

  13. I'm in the revision process of my first book and I love how you describe the process! Thank you for all of your videos on writing and publishing!

  14. As much as I love writing, I love revision more. There's something about getting things in order, the right sentence, the right word; it just makes me happy.
    And it's probably why I edit as I go, instead of getting the darn book finished. Something I have to work at.
    ~ Jon

  15. Late but I just found your channel. I love revision too! One thing I do to edit word choice and flow is to get each paragraph and edit it is isolatiom before reading the entire chapter aloud to make sure each paragraph flows nicely into the next. It takes awhile but when I'm done I see a lot of improvement usually.

  16. What is she say around 5:32? It is "something" syndrome? What is this?

  17. I love this! It is my first time revising a book and I am scared, excited, hopeful, all at once🙃 thank you for giving me some motivation 🙂

  18. When you talk about "too many characters" I assume there's a hard line between what classifies a 'character' and a person in the story who is named. I feel like I have the right amount of core characters for my genre, but there's a fair amount of reoccurring named people who get their own whole paragraphs, description, or are saying significant things too.
    Should I not be doing that?

  19. Thanks, you've just made revision simple. Even though it can be tough. Your list of tips made this less overwhelming. 😃👍🏻

  20. I'm just about to start Revisions. I finished my first draft of my first book in April and have been leaving it for months to take a break. This video was a godsend on giving me ideas on what to do next. Thank you for this awesome video!

  21. I loved this. I’ve been so overwhelmed bi revision that I ignored my messy first draft ( complete newbie) for 18 months now.
    Alexa, Would you think I have to fix the mess before I find a CP ? Thanks for any advice about where to find a CP?
    Thanks for great personality shiny through with lovely enthusiasm!

  22. I've been doing it linear order but your explanation has has shown me that tackling it by subjects would be better for me, thank you.

  23. I finished my first ever draft today! I am so nervous and freaking out! But so HAPPY! My dream is on its way! I need to enter it for a contest in a few days, and there is ALOT to edit. So I will only rest for a week, and then edit for 35 days. I hope I win the contest 🙂

  24. “Quick Robin, to the draft cave!” I now find myself interested in seeing the “draft mobile”…probably a keyboard of some sort.

  25. I haven’t even written a first draft but I loved this video. I can already tell about myself that I like revising and editing more than actually writing. It’s the same way for my blog posts and videos. I love taking something mediocre and turning it into the best it can be!

  26. This is such great advice. Revising did really freak me out but now I've learnt to love it.

  27. Alexa, I love this! Revision is my favorite and I love hearing how other writers do it. And this is such good advice. I always forget to take a break between drafts and…uh…be a human?? 😂❤️

  28. I ADORE you and these videos! I’m a mess of a reviser, but as I’m finishing this rewrite, I’m going to try some new things that you’ve mentioned! Also, what eyeshadow is that?? 🔥😍

  29. Ohh lordy i feel like ive been revising for months and months now😂 i like this a lot because I've been feeling very overwhelmed with the feedback ive gotten from beta's while simultaneously line editing. This definitely helps💕

  30. About to go into revisions for my third novel and I'm excited and terrified all at once! I hate writing the first drafts so I'm so happy to be onto the revision phase finally!

  31. omg! i am facing the daunting task of revisions NOW… so much to do… so much lol…

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