Surviving Revising…

Ah, another round of revisions is coming to a close. Good news: I just have this feeling that I’ve made some super successful changes… yay! Sort of bad news: The whole thing has been quite a challenge. As I’m sure most of you can attest to, the revision process is full of musing, second-guessing, doubt, and tons of hard work. I feel like I’ve been staring at my computer for ten days straight, and thinking about this story nonstop.

Oh, how to deal? Well, there are a few things I  do to survive the madness of revisions. I’ve compiled my best tips and tricks to share with you today…

Sleep on it. Feedback, I mean. If you’re anything like me, the first reading of a revision letter is met with a certain degree of mental resistance. We want to believe our work is perfect as-is, but deep down we know it’s not. That’s we why ask for feedback in the first place, right? I find if I take a night or two (or a week–whatever works) to absorb and ponder revision notes, they feel a lot less personal and a lot more helpful. My mind starts to mentally work out the problems that need addressing, and suddenly I’m excited to dig in.

Set a completion goal date. If I don’t give myself a deadline to work toward, I’ll procrastinate for hours (or days!) before I ever get down to being truly productive. When I’m really struggling with motivation, I take goal-setting a step further and break my workload into days, like: Revise 30 pages on Monday, or Address supporting character (Chelsea) on Tuesday.

Draft a scene-by-scene To-Do List. I’m intrinsically organized and an enthusiastic list-maker, so seeing all the work I need to do in bullet points makes the revision process a lot less daunting. If I can trick myself into thinking it’ll be easy, that it’s totally manageable, then I’m able to dive in with a whole lot more confidence. Also, I make a point to highlight each scene on my list as I compete it. It’s so encouraging to watch each item on my list transition to bright yellow, one by one!

Tackle the big stuff first, but keep a running list of “little things” to go back to later. This works for me because it keeps me on task. I find as I’m revising overall story elements (theme, pacing, character arc, whatever), little things consistently pop up that also need altering. But it’s a serious waste of minutes and momentum to stop, back up, and take care of a tiny detail. Still, I don’t want to forget about these important bits, so I keep a separate list  at the bottom of my scene-by-scene To-Do List. It’s something of a reward to run through and change each one as the revision comes to a close.

Sign off. Like, from everything BUT your manuscript. I know, I know… it’s so hard NOT to check Twitter and email and Facebook. It’s no fun to cancel social engagements because you have to work. It’s annoying to see all your favorite TV shows backed up on your DVR. It sucks to watch a fine layer of dust accumulate on your coffee table (okay, that might just be me). But I have to let go of all those outside distractions in order to get into my revision mindset. The only real “breaks” I give myself are quality time with my daughter (obviously), exercise, reading (but just a little!), and the occasional blog post.

Enjoy that final read-through. When I’m “done” and it’s time to begin my last overall read-through, I try to ditch Revising Writer Katy and settle into Casual Reader Katy. This way, I’m able to catch problems I might not have noticed otherwise. Little things, like a slight voice inconsistency or an overuse of a character’s name. Also, it’s an incredibly pleasant and gratifying experience to read through all my hard work as an eventual book-buyer might.

When all else fails, have a treat. This healthy little faux brownie got me through this latest revision. I ate one nightly, and I didn’t gain even a pound!

1. Spray a microwave safe bowl with Pam.
2. Combine 2 egg whites, half of one mashed banana, and 1/4 pumpkin puree.
3. Add 2 T almond meal, 1 T Stevia, 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder (I love Hershey’s Special Dark!), and 1/4 t baking powder.
4. Mix all ingredients thoroughly.
5. (Optional) Add a sprinkling of bittersweet or dark chocolate chips. (I love the Ghirardelli brand). Combine.
6. Microwave for 2 to 3 minutes, depending on your machine and altitude.

This recipe yields one enormous faux brownie that can be enjoyed on its own, or topped with peanut butter, almond butter, whipped cream, or ice cream (depending on what kind of day you’re having :)).

So, how do you endure the challenges of revising? Any tips to share?


32 thoughts on “Surviving Revising…

  1. Ian Hiatt says:

    Thanks, Katy. I find myself in the Revising Rut of Doom at the moment and these tips will likely help me out if I put them on Post-It notes and stick them around my apartment with my other revising notes (most of them include profanities to stir me to revise…). Always nice to get some tips from fellow writers.

    • katyupperman says:

      Ian, you crack me up! Maybe insert some profanities into my tips before you post them, that way they’ll fit in among the others in your apartment? 🙂 Good luck with the work, and thanks for stopping by!

  2. Sara Biren says:

    When I first read the brownie recipe, I saw “attitude,” not “altitude.” 🙂

    I admire your methodical approach to revision. I’m not that organized! I love the revision process, much more than the initial stages. It’s so satisfying when the pieces of the puzzle finally fit together and you can step back saying, “This is a better book.”

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on revision (and the brownie recipe).


    • katyupperman says:

      I suppose “attitude” works too. 🙂

      I’d much rather revise than first-draft as well. I suppose that’s why I have such a methodical approach to it. As stressful as it can be, revising really is hugely satisfying.

      Thanks, Sara!

  3. Sangu says:

    Oooh great tips here! I’m a frenzied reviser/writer. I either work obsessively, almost shutting out the whole outside world, and get everything done – or I do absolutely nothing. I can’t work in disciplined little chunks. But I find the obsessive thing works for me. It achieves what I need it to… though I may be saying very different when I have a young baby alongside the manuscript!

    • katyupperman says:

      Yep… the baby changes it all! I HAVE to right in disciplined little chunks because of my daughter. If I don’t take advantage of her time at preschool and time in bed, then I have NO time to work. Sometimes that can be frustrating, but usually it’s a good thing because I’m forced into a routine. Still, I miss those frenzied, full days of work, free of distraction (kiddos!). Thanks for stopping by, Sangu!

  4. Kirsten Lopresti says:

    Great tips. I especially like the one about making a list of little things to go back to because I tend to get sidetracked. Signing off is hard. The dust on the coffee table thing is hard, too. Never thought of brownies but I’m willing to try it:)

    • katyupperman says:

      Signing off is SO hard! So is the dust on the coffee table! Let me know if you give the brownie a try. Not quite the same as a “real” brownie, but still tasty. 🙂

  5. Erin Bowman says:

    “Sleep on it” is some of the best advice. For feedback, and even for when you’re stuck. There were numerous times, when I was working on my first round of revisions for my editor, that I hit a wall. I’d spend the entire day writing my way down the WRONG path. But then sleeping on it? That’s all it took. Sometimes you have to write the wrong thing to get it right. And sometimes, just a few minutes (or a night) away from the MS is all it takes for the answer to fall into your lap.

    Great post, Katy! And congrats on nearing the end of this revision. It is a fabulous feeling. 🙂

    • katyupperman says:

      Thanks, lady! And yes… I can’t count the number of times I’ve written the WRONG thing just to eventually get to the right thing. Whatever it takes, I guess. 🙂

  6. Sara McClung says:

    For me, the grass is always greener. I’m drafting right now and DREAMING of the days when I’ll get to revise. Then, when I revise, I DREAM of the days I get to create something brand new. It’s a vicious cycle…

    As for surviving the revision process… I think having writing partners that you trust is SO important. For many reasons, including the moments during revision when you can’t trust your own instincts, so that you can turn to them to really hash things out 🙂

    Congrats on your revision!!

    • katyupperman says:

      Totally agree, Sara. Writing friends are golden, and I’ve sent mine frantic emails more times than I care to admit. 🙂

      I’m with you on the “grass is always greener” too, though I do tend to favor revisions just a bit. Drafting is fun and exciting, but I do love prettifying what I’ve already got. So satisfying!

  7. Rebecca B says:

    I just finished a proto-draft, so I’m bookmarking this for when I’m ready to start my first round of edits. Great tips!

  8. Miss Cole says:

    This is a fantastic list! I’m bookmarking it for future reference!
    I *definitely* treat myself after completing a round of revisions. I should be due for cupcakes at the end of the month! 😀

  9. Jaime says:

    Great list, Katy! I had to laugh because I’m a total list-junkie too. I actually LOL’d when I read the bit about highlighting in yellow, because I do that also (it’s actually the only way I got through The Mysteries of Udolpho in University – I was just SO excited each time I was able to highlight a chapter that I’d read on my list). The brownies are a nice touch too 🙂

    • katyupperman says:

      Thanks so much, Jaime. Glad to know another highlighter. I can’t help myself… it’s just so darn satisfying to see all I’ve accomplished right there in bright yellow!

  10. Nadja Notariani says:

    I also like to ‘sit-on’ beta feedback for a bit. Changes can be great things, but I want to make sure I’ve really thought it through, and make the right changes. If I move too quickly, then I start that dreaded second-guessing you speak of, but when I take my time and play out how the changes will affect the story, I can select the right ‘tweaking’ to make ‘okay’ into ‘good’…and ‘good’ into ‘better’…and ‘better’ into ‘best’….well, that’s the goal, anyway!

    • katyupperman says:

      I’m with you, Nadja. If I’m torn on advice, I try to get second or third opinions from CPs or betas before I make any changes. Still, the waiting and sleeping seems to be the best for nailing down what I really think is the best direction for my work. Thanks for stopping by, Nadja!

  11. Colin says:

    I love the creative process of that first draft. But there’s something enticing about the thought of perfecting something that already exists. Staring at a blank screen and producing from scratch seems a lot harder. Perhaps that’s an argument in favor of doing NaNoWriMo: you spend a month creating *something* that you can then revise to perfection later. All the best with they revisions, Katy! 🙂

    • katyupperman says:

      I’m with you Colin. Though I’ve never officially done NaNo, I do prefer to draft quickly (like one to three months) so that I can get down to business with revising and polishing. That blank screen and imperfect first draft are just too intimidating!

  12. Alison Miller says:

    Awesome tips, awesome post. And I found myself going “check” as I scrolled down your list – made me feel like I’m on the right track!

    The one I have the hardest time with is “signing off.” But I’m working on it!

    • katyupperman says:

      Signing off is definitely my biggest challenge too, Alison… as you might have noticed. 🙂 I love the community of YA writers so much; it’s a huge challenge to disconnect completely. Still, if I do it and really get down to the business of the revision, it goes much more smoothly and much quicker.

  13. Jessica Love says:

    Great tips! I’m doing a lot of these in my pre-query revision, so seeing you list them makes me feel like I’m doing something right. (I hope!)

    I love making my list and crossing things off, but I’ve been starting with the little stuff first because it’s easy and crossing a lot of little, easy things off of my list makes me feel like I have accomplished so much and really builds my momentum.

    • katyupperman says:

      Okay, Jess… I kind of like your argument for tackling the little things first. I might have to try that the next time around. I won’t pass up at least TRYING something that might help me build momentum. Good luck with your revising… I’m rooting you on!

  14. Lindsay says:

    Great advice Katy! I agree with you 100% and congrats on finishing a second round of revisions. They can be so hard, but so satisfying when you are finally done:)

Comments are closed.