Revision is GOOD! I promise. 

Hey fellow writers and NaNo novelists!

For those who participated in this year’s National Novel Writing Month, let’s all breathe a collected sigh of relief. We did it!


Whether you won or lost this year, you have a lot of which to be proud! Starting is the biggest obstacle. By starting your novel in November, you are already ahead of the people who just talk about writing.

So, what’s next? You are about to enter the wonderful world of revision and its not for the faint of heart! Revision is one of those love/hate things about writing. There will be times you love it and times where you’ll wonder why can’t you write something perfect the first time.

Take heart, every writer revises and no two writers revise the same way. Books are written in revision and though your process for creating the novel went one way, your process for the revision/writing will be different. It should be since this is where the heavy lifting happens.

Here’s how I do the heavy lifting, the revision part of this process. This is something I used during my grad school days that I’ve retweaked. You’re welcomed to use this process or adjust it for your own needs.

Mobile uses should click this link to see the video.

It starts with the memo. Yes, a memo. Right now, while everything is still fresh, write a memo to your self giving your impressions of your novel. Be sure to include what you think you still need to do or what you should remember to do, i.e. add foreshadowing, add figurative language, etc.

After that, walk away. You will want to start diving into the revision. Don’t. Though you wrote a novel in a month, there is no race for revision and you really don’t want it to be. You want to be deliberate and focused. Burn out is not a good thing during this process. While NaNo may have been a spirit, revision is a marathon so take a breather you’ve earned it!

Come January, however, it’s time to get some work done. That’s when you’ll read your NaNo novel for the first time all the way through. Read it like you would any other book and write down your impressions in your memo. Careful though, this is not the time to do the heavy lifting. This is when you begin to access what exactly you need to do. You can do the small things–periods, commas, capital letters, etc–as you’re reading but the bigger items like writing scenes, adding lines, etc should be done later.

By now, the memo would have lots of suggestions from before and now after. This is where you start the revision. The big things on the list, for example writing new scenes or chapters, should be the first things you tackle. You can’t revise something that doesn’t exist.

From there you want to revise from big to small — chapter by chapter, scene by scene, paragraph by paragraph, line by line. Take the time to do this with each chapter. For me, I’ll take about two weeks just on one chapter depending on what is in it and what I want to do it. This is where the heavy lifting happens. This is also where the grammar fixing happens. I’ll probably read the chapter several times, almost committing it memory by the time I move to the next chapter.  I’ll also read it out loud to hear how the words sound.

When I’m done, I’ll want to write another memo giving myself notes and reminders. I’ll step away from the piece for at least two weeks and I’ll repeat the entire process, this time printing out the entire novel and working from my paper copy.

This may seem like an involved and long process but it should be. You want the best version of your novel out there in the masses. After all, it’s your calling card.

What is your process like? For more on revision, click here to see what I’ve written in the past.