Scratching off items on your revision “to-do list” can be supremely satisfying. Watching the list shrink as you scrawl victory slashes through once-daunting tasks on your paper notes, punt bullet points away into the digital trashcan, and crumple up sticky notes with your ink-stained hands—however you mark it, progress feels good.
Why not use that drive as your motivating force? Characters need motivation, after all. Sometimes, we writers do too, and small victories along the way dramatically help our own hero’s quest of battling those daunting revisions.
Moments of overwhelming panic can hit anyone staring at their manuscript’s rough draft pages, but massive revisions are often needed. That’s simply how the creative process works.
So what do you do? Procrastinate by cleaning out your desk drawers, tossing in another load of laundry, or scrolling through your favorite newsfeed? Maybe, but that’s not helpful to your cause.
Instead, create a to-do list that isn’t only organized but also manageable and full of conquests. Editing? Manageable? Conquerable? Absolutely.
Have you ever revised a manuscript in waves? Here’s how you can make it happen:
Whether you’ve built an editorial road map (which I highly, highly recommend) or simply a list of tasks to tackle, pick one item on that list and focus your efforts. Rather than going page by page, starting on page one of chapter one and fixing everything that needs to be fixed, which can be intimidating to even think about, allow yourself to get in the revision zone with a singular, dedicated concentration.
- Review your full manuscript only looking at the first paragraph or two of every single chapter, imagining how effective each beginning might be if a reader were pulling out a bookmark right there. When you have evaluated and empowered every chapter start, you can strike this to-do off your list.
- Revise your pages with a unswerving dedication to character differentiation and nothing else but that. You’ll find yourself hitting your groove with consistency and likely some creative panache.
- Tackle your point of view or verb tense consistency, homing in on only these details that might otherwise slip through the editorial cracks with a more scattered review.
- Use the “Find” function to seek out every single “cheating word” that you used to enhance the pacing of your scenes rather than allowing your skills of craft to shine.
Make your list. Check it twice like Santa. Then arrange your editing plan into transformational waves of action. Decide on a priority order that makes the most sense for you and your process, and then witness how each wave refreshes your draft, enabling it to become more powerful again and again and again.
Editing page by page can be grueling, and this is especially true when you have ten elements of your story that you’re trying to keep in mind as you’re moving forward. No one can juggle that effectively.
In our multi-tasking world, we want to do it all. But when it comes to editing, trying to do it all is asking for failure. Learning how to truly focus on a single task can be empowering in so many ways.
When we create, we sometimes find our flow state, where the magic is just right. Yet there’s a flow state for editing too if we only set ourselves up to find it. And when the result of that productive focus is scratching off everything on our revision list, one by one, we’ll be all the stronger for it. Our manuscripts, of course, will be too.