Survival Tips for Revising Your Novel

Writing is hard y'all. It's time consuming, stressful, and of course there are the highs and lows the emotional roller coaster takes you on. Every. Single. Time.

But it's also one of my favorite things to do in this world (I know, I sound crazy right now). It's hard work, but when I see how my story flows, or how a character makes me laugh, and I read the words that I wrote and think, "Whoa, I wrote that?" it's one of the most accomplished feelings in the world.

Revising is no different.

The initial draft may be finished, with a detailed plot, story, and fully developed characters acting out in front of my eyes, but there's a reason the first draft is called rough. And now that I've written a 400 page novel of my own, I can't help but feel like the term rough has a double meaning: one for the state of the draft, and the other for the experience of the author revising that draft.

So, during the revision process of my own I've learned a few things that could be helpful to you on your journey through revising a novel. Here are some things that have worked for me.

1. Set a deadline for your draft.
Doing so will give you an idea of how to prioritize your time and complete the task. The exact amount of time you give yourself will depend on many factors, including: how quickly you work, how much time you have to work on your draft, and when you think is realistic to have it finished. I'm on summer break (from college) right now. So, I have a lot of time that was freed up to revise my first draft. I wanted to have the second draft finished by the time classes began in the fall, and decided to set an eight week goal for myself (two weeks to take a break from my novel in order to return with fresh eyes, and six weeks to revise it). Then I contacted the editor of my choice.

2. Hire an Editor.
I've been researching freelance editors for awhile now, knowing that whether I decided to query, or self-publish, I wanted a professional set of eyes on my manuscript to polish it up. I'm not perfect y'all, and neither is my writing. In fact, I have a ton of things to learn about good writing, and continue to do so on a daily basis. (Hence my "A Writer's Everyday Journey" as my blog's tag line.)

I emailed the editor of my choice and got the ball rolling. We communicated several times after that through email, and then we had a phone conversation. We got to know each other's styles a little and talked about what services I wanted from her (there are several types of editing), and what she wanted from me (notes, outlines, character sketches, etc). We also talked possible deadlines, and that's where my accountability came from. A few days later I signed an agreement to have my second draft to her by July 28th, and I've been working like a mad woman ever since. Want motivation to finish a draft by a certain date? Hire an editor. When there's money on the line, slacking off is not an option!

3. Set a Pace For Yourself.
It could be the amount of pages you revise per day, per week, per month—this is per the author's preference. I recommend dividing the amount of pages you have to revise by the amount of weeks you have until your deadline, in order to prevent yourself from falling behind. You don't have to work on it everyday—it could be exclusively on weekends. But this way you'll know how many pages per week you'll need to revise in order to meet your deadline. Otherwise, you could hire an editor, set a deadline, but end up waiting until the last minute to revise (thinking you have more time than you do) and find yourself in a predicament.

4. Take Breaks!
As I stated above, revising is hard. It requires time, concentration, and creativity at it's best. This combination has the ability to write Bestsellers, but each requires a break to perform at optimal level. Otherwise, you'll waste time expending loads amount of energy, trying to concentrate on being creative. It's torture. Pure torture. Don't do it to yourself! Schedule in breaks after you've revised a certain number of pages, or after working for a certain amount of time.

5. Exercise.
I am telling you that the only way I have not gone nuts over the past few weeks was because of exercise. I'm a runner, so it's on my mind already. But there have been many times when I've sat in front of my computer having already taken a break (or several), and have felt like I was going to blow steam from my ears. Then I decided to run off that steam, and returned to my computer high on endorphins. My mood was good. I was optimistic about making my deadline and doing it well. And I didn't lose my mind. If not for anything else—run (or walk, lift, swim, yoga, etc.) to save your mind. You're a writer and you'll need to take care of it to continue doing what you love for years to come.

6. Chocolate.
The word is self-explanatory, because chocolate is the secret to happiness. Buy some. Eat some. Revise that draft.

I need to get back to revising my manuscript now in order to meet my deadline, so I must end this post now. But head back this way in a few days to read my post about what to keep and what to get rid of while revising (it's much more than punctuation and grammar—way, way more than that!) Until then, happy writing!