Revision: A Different Approach to Editing Your Novel

For the past month and the next two months to come, I’ll be deep into the revision of my current manuscript.

This is the final, big – independent – revision of the work. (NB: future revision may be conducted depending on the advice/feedback of my supervisors and future editors).

Just as it was with Every Time He Dies, this particular step involves a multitude of mini-steps.

Over the next months, I will be checking the work for consistency, tone, voice, characterisation and pace.

Theme will be subtly underscored and any instances that are too ‘on the nose’ removed.

Grammar and sentence structure will be check, and I’ll attempt to remove all typos, but like a split bean bag, it is impossible to pick up every single one of those pesky little buggers!

I’ve figured everything out. (Haha, I’m hilarious, I know!).

The story is done, now I just have to make one small change at a time until the current manuscript matches the story buried in my head. (Or the story that feels the truest, because ideas change).

Editing is my favourite part of writing.

The process is slow, and it’s my favourite part of writing. Unlike drafting, I’m not creating from nothing, but instead bettering what is already there. I get to play around with words: did he slump into the chair, or collapse into it? Did her eyes narrow, or did she look away to avoid their gaze?

I adore this phase of writing because it allows for this nit-picky, deep thinking, toying around, and noodling with language. However, it is important to keep yourself in check here.

Are these changes making the story better, or just different?

A question I will keep posted above my computer as I continue to edit.

Time and space are luxuries for any writer.

There are few things quite as precious as knowing you have nowhere to be, nothing that urgently needs doing, and that you won’t be interrupted (most important!).

Thank the muse for closed doors and noise cancelling headphones.

This stage of revision, for me at least, is deeply internal and insula.

Not to fall into the business of romanising the craft, but the best part of writing is when the boundaries between the work and your own life begin to blur. When a friend raises a topic your characters were just discussing or when you read a book and an uncommon word is used – and you had just used it too!

You and your novel holding hands ❤

Better yet is when you’re working on a scene that just isn’t … working, and then your ordinary life gives you the solution…

The love interest knew something was wrong when the dog didn’t greet them at the door.

The protagonist couldn’t answer the dinner host’s question because she’d laughed so hard at their joke she’d wet her pants and had to excuse herself from the table! (This has never happened to me.)

One of the fundamental principles of a writing routine is to have a goal, a way to measure the success of your writing session, whether it be a time goal (an hour) or a word goal (500 words).

While the pace as which I write is pretty predictable (1000 words an hour), revision is not.

During the revision stage, I tend to stick to time goals over word count, but lately, I’ve been considering adjusting this goal as well.  

This came about after listening to an episode of The Secret Library Podcast with Sarah Selecky. Here, Selecky said that since the 2020 lockdowns began, she’s started measuring her success on whether she reached a flow state during her writing sessions. Was she distracted, checking social media, email, or websites? Or, was she deeply focussed, giving all of her attention to the work?

Recently, I joined a private writing group for academics interested in wellness. Each month we focus on a particular topic, and last month’s focus was timelessness.

We all know that five minutes sitting in a corporate meeting feels very different to five minutes chatting with your best friend, watching a sunrise, or reading a great book.

Chrons vs Kairos. Or can you have both?

Chronos time is the time that governs clocks. Kairos is the sensation of timelessness. Kairos is a three-hour concert that feels like ten minutes. Chronos is mowing the lawn at noon with a piece of glass stuck in your foot, covered in flies: you are hyper aware of every moment.

Kairos is entering a flow state.

This may sound like a contradiction, but in continuing my revisions, I hope to experience both Chronos and Kairos. I will be setting a timer (because we live in a Chronos world, and other things have to get done), but within this container, I aim to slip into a flow state, Kairos.

I am naturally a quick worker; I like to get things done; and for this reason, I have a tendency to rush through, get my gold star, and move onto the next task.

Working this way can be great, but right now I want to experiment with stretching time, being awake to the process rather than focussing on the finishing line and generally enjoying myself.

I never stopped having fun with writing, but I want to go deeper into the process and to see what there is to see skating around inside the starry, infinity of Kairos because I suspect she has some damn fine stories to tell.

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Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

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