Preparing to start Revision #1049

Does anyone else feel overwhelmed when they’re about to start a revision?

I can deal with little changes. But big-picture changes, ones that will improve the story arc or theme, fixes that are arguably the most important — those feel daunting. Then again, what wouldn’t feel daunting when looking at a 273-page document? (About 84,000 words, for those of you who are counting).

Here’s what gets me through it: knowing that this revision will make the book so much better. Because every time I rewrite this manuscript, it gets stronger. And that puts me that much closer to being ready to submit to publishers.

How do you keep from feeling overwhelmed when you start a new revision? Or any big project?

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13 Responses

  1. A great question. I think that drafting and tinkering is the easy part of writing; it’s the revisions that separates the men from the boys. Feeling overwhelmed is natural and understandable. With my current project, the only thing that keeps me from feeling overwhelmed — especially because I’m trying to do it while also caring for an infant full-time — is committing to working on it 15 minutes a day, every day. The “chip away” approach works for me, maybe because when I do a little at a time, I’m less likely to overwhelm myself — I really try (though it’s hard!) just to focus on the task at hand, rather than the 400 other things I need to do.
    There is no secret that works for everyone, though. Seeing through a large project is truly psychological as much as it is anything else. Sort of like it’s not necessarily the most fit runner who can finish a marathon.

  2. Also — (1) Limit feedback. There is such thing as too much, and it can send you in too many directions. Right now only two, maybe three people are reading my stuff and giving notes. That helps a lot. (2) take it a chapter at a time. I have a couple really ugly chapters right now, and thinking about them as a group is overwhelming. But this week I’m just revising one of them. Just one. That I can do!

  3. I break it down into manageable chunks. If I look at the whole think, it is extremely daunting. But if I look at a chapter or even a paragraph at a time, it helps. Good luck, Alexis.
    Karen

  4. Great timing! I just started the sixth revision of my book this past weekend (and incorporating the great feedback you gave me, btw). I think I’m feeling less overwhelmed by it than I otherwise would because I had to take a few months off due to a massive work project that consumed my entire existence. It ended up being a good thing, though, because it gave me the distance necessary to see what major structural changes I need to make to make things work.

    But now after working on the first chapter for two days I’m finding myself with a different challenge, which is that I have read every sentence of the MS over a hundred times, and it is hard not to be completely bored by it. I am going to take that as evidence that I just need to work on the writing itself a bit harder. I’ve noticed that when I do writing I’m really proud of, I can read it over and over again and still be satisfied with it. I’d like to get to that point with my MS.

  5. Love these tips, guys!

    Littlehouse & Karen — You’re so right on taking one chapter at a time. Bird by bird!

    Caitlin — Good for you. And good that you can see the silver lining in taking some time off from the project. It’s always hard to convince ourselves to do that unless we’re forced to.

  6. I use a list of characters and what they do, then make another list of what they’ll have to do in the revision. If they don’t have more to do, don’t revise them. But they always have more to do.

    My biggest problem is leaving extra words in shortened sentences. Need an extra eye for that.

    Dave

  7. Keep from feeling overwhelmed? Is that possible? I just work through the feeling. Or maybe even embrace it and let it carry me through the rewrites and revisions. Oh goodness, I am so with you. It’s always a daunting task!!

  8. I usually get in some kind of revision zone and work for hours at a time and then take equally long breaks. You have to be in the right mood for sure 🙂 but you sound like you already have the right attitude for it! It also helps when I read sections out loud to myself

  9. Well, it’s 9.00pm and I’ve just finished a long day at the day job and it’d time to sit down and make a dent on revision number #752, so your post couldn’t have been more perfectly timed.

    I’m like you – I feel overwhelmed for a bit. Then I remind myself how much I love this book, and how much I want it to be the best it can be. Then I start with one chapter.

    I also generally fuel myself on tea and chocolate. But I’m doing a cleanse at the moment so tonight it is roasted dandelion root tea and a dried apricot. Let’s see if they work for revisions…

  10. If it’s a great read at 273 pages, then it could only be better at 150. Unless you get paid by the page. If you do, make it 1,273.

  11. […] Grant recently wrote about feeling overwhelmed by a new wave of revisions. I can really relate to that feeling. That’s when I realised, I have knowledge to share about […]

  12. […] I’ve been neglecting my revisions, and those are important to me, too. A big part of the reason why I think it’s a good idea to […]

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