Wordy Wednesday: How to Not Go Insane While Revising

Whoa. Look at that. It’s Wednesday again. (Funny how that happens.)

Midterm season has drawn to an end, which of course means it’s not even Halloween yet and already my professors are yelling at me to get term paper drafts done and it’s suddenly cold enough to warrant a coat on the way to class.

Also: internship apps, and NaNoWriMo prep, and did I mention that November’s bringing lots of big announcements? Like I’ve been working on a lot that I haven’t been able to share with you BUT NOVEMBER IS THE MONTH. (Don’t get too excited. This in no way involves an agent or book deal or trip to Mars or anything. But still: Exciting Stuff.)

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post.


I’m currently in the midst of doing the line edits round of revisions on one of my novels and, as expected, it’s basically torture.

Most of revising I don’t have a problem with. I actually really enjoy pulling the novel apart, switching things around, adding and getting rid of stuff, then putting it back together again. But line edits involve sitting down and reading the entire thing straight through in order to ensure it all works. And by “it all,” I mean not only the changes I made earlier in revising, but also checking flow, and fixing awkward sentences, and nailing down phrasing and character development and SO MUCH MORE.

It takes a ton of energy and attention, and because of this can be really difficult to get through.

But I’ve got a few tricks to getting it done.

Revise by Scene

I used to revise by chapter instead of scene. (Meaning: I’d take a break and give myself a pat on the back when I finished a chapter.) But then sometimes I’d be in the middle of a scene at the end of a chapter, so I’d come back after a break and have no idea where I was supposed to be tonally, and of course some of the details wouldn’t be as clear in my head anymore, and yeah. Now I don’t let myself stop until I’ve reached the end of the scene I’m on, instead, and it really helps to keep things focused.

Procrastinate by Revising

A couple weeks back, I got about a week ahead on my homework with the idea that doing so would leave my weekend free to revise. It had been difficult juggling schoolwork with bashing-my-head-against-a-wall-over-line-edits. However, the instant I no longer had something I wanted to do even less than revising (like reading about WWII propaganda films for my film history class), suddenly I had no interest in revising either. So I ended up spending the weekend binging on Gilmore Girls.

Moral of the story: If revising isn’t your favorite activity ever, it’s possibly actually good to be dividing your time between it and another activity you like even less. It’s amazing how productive you can be when you’re using that activity to procrastinate from another one. (Also: I clearly make good life choices.)

Set Short Term AND Long Term Goals

Setting goals while revising should be obvious, but it’s a step I forget about sometimes. And you not only want to have goals like “finish Long Action Sequence #1 by midnight,” but also “finish first third of manuscript by Friday” and “send draft to critique partners by end of month.” It’s these layers of goals that help keep you on track and motivated.

And on that note:

Use a Reward System

Goals don’t mean much if you don’t get something for reaching them. Maybe if you meet your revising goal for the day, you get to have a bowl of ice cream. Or you can go to the movies with your friends.

And for larger goals, you should also have larger rewards. I generally let myself buy something semi-expensive off ModCloth or purchase concert tickets or (wow, I really need to stop using spending money as rewards).

Make Time to Relax

This is the biggest thing, for me. If you burn yourself out trying to get your revisions done super fast, they aren’t going to turn out well and you ultimately are just going to make more work for yourself. So take time to sit back and watch an episode (or three) of Gilmore Girls. Hang out with your friends. Read a good book. It’s okay to take a day off here and there, as long as you don’t lose momentum.


Thanks for reading!