Tuesday, June 1, 2021

IWSG: Jumping into Revision When You're Not Quite Ready

Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking.

If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

June 2 question - For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

The awesome co-hosts for the June 2 posting of the IWSG are J Lenni Dorner, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, Lee Lowery, and Rachna Chhabria! Be sure to check out what they have to say, and visit other writers in the blog hop!

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Taking time to step away from your work can be a valuable part of the writing process--giving you a little distance and space from the work you just completed and letting you come to it with fresh eyes and a little more objectivity. 

Given my druthers, I would always step away for at least a month, maybe longer if the writing the piece took a lot out of me emotionally. 

But, that's not always possible. 

If you work with publishers, editors, or even with a critique group, your schedule might not always be completely your own. I know I've had some tight turnarounds in my writing life, where I finished the first draft only to find that  the submission deadline was looming large, forcing me to jump back into editing and revision sooner than I prefer.

So, if I can't take a big break, I still try to get a little space, even just a day or two. I take a day to work on something else. Then, if I'm time-crunched and HAVE to jump right back in I have a few tricks to make it feel fresh to me. 

1. Change format:  if you've been working on screen up till now, consider printing out a paper copy to work with, or at least changing the font choice and size. 

2. Go somewhere else: work on it somewhere different than you usually do. Go to a park, a coffeeshop, the library, a different room in your home or even just a different chair. 

3. Outline what's there:  I'm a pantser, so I don't generally work from an outline for my novels, but sometimes I find it helps to do a post-production outline, creating a list of scenes as if I'm going to have to write a report or pass a test over the book. I LOVE the scene cards technique from the DIY-MFA book by Gabriela Pereira which asks you to list for each scene:
  • a title for the scene
  • the major players
  • the action
  • the purpose (structurally)
This has saved my bacon more than once, helping me spot continuity errors (like the same character is in two places at the same time!) and identify scenes that aren't moving the story forward as much as they could be. 

So, if I can't have the breathing space I'd like between drafts, that's what I do to try and freshen my perspective. 

I also find the feedback of valued writing friends useful at this stage and will ask other writers to brainstorm with me, or just give me a reaction to a section I'm stuck on.  A lot of times, it isn't that the other writer solves my problem for me, but that they say something that sparks my own realization. I feel like I get there faster in discussion with writer-friends than I would on my own. 

How about you, writing and creative friends? How do you find fresh eyes when it's time to revise or revisit your work? 


  1. Hi Samantha, I hope you're ok :) I like the idea of printing it out then re-drafting it. It changes the format and gives your eyes a break from the screen. Thanks! irevive.online

  2. Yes, it's great to take a break before revising, even a short one. I don't outline the whole manuscript before I write either. But I do outline as I go. That's been working on my current manuscript.

  3. Hi Samantha, thanks for the wonderful tips. I'll try them for my current WIP.

  4. I agree with what you've suggested. I find those editing strategies work quite well.

  5. I have an AMAZING critique group who helps me revise my picture books. My novels are currently in a drawer until I figure out how to write a proper novel with subplots and character development, etc. But when I finally pull them out, the first thing I will do is outline them. I'm a pantser, too, and have known for a long time I need to outline post-production.

  6. I find reading it on my Kindle really helps me put on my reader's hat and I can make notes along the way. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  7. Two things I always do in revision, no matter how pressed for time, is print it out and work with a paper version and then read it out loud. Having someone else read it is always good, if time and deadlines permit. My outlines always come first, because I write mystery and I always plot the crime.

  8. I think it's a good idea to take a little time after a draft is done, even if it's just for a few days.

  9. I like your idea of printing it out. I always see more when it's in print. I've also sent it to my Kindle. It feels like a real book then, and I always catch things that way.

    Your method reminds me of Second Sight by Cheryl Klein. I believe she has you go back and make an outline after you're writing the first draft.

    I'm experimenting with revising for big issues as I go, but I always try to take some time off between drafts if I can.

  10. I really like your 3 revision ideas. I always print a hard copy to work from as it is easier for me to look at/ read. I once confessed this to my students feeling I was 'old school' and surprisingly (to me) they said they felt the same way. Thanks for the ideas.

  11. Now you see, Samantha, I like to outline short stories as I read them to see how the author put the story together. Then I look at my stories to be sure the main parts are there and check the pacing. I've only finished one book-length manuscript: my college memoir. I like to print sections to be able to actually see what I have and what's missing. Thanks so much for sharing this insight with your followers. All best to you!

  12. At the moment I'm not working with any publishers, editors, or even with a critique group so usually shelve my work for months. I'm a plantser so have an outline but generally leave it to my characters to branch out from or keep to it. After coming back to a shelved story, same as you, I either work from a printout copy or change the font.