Sandra Jones · writing advice

No Pain No Gain: Revision Hurts

Growing up, we’ve watched Joan Rivers evolve, or perhaps not evolve, thanks to the time and money she spends on cosmetic procedures. We’ve all seen some miraculous works by cosmetic surgeons, though I have to admit, I’m afraid of a knife.

At least with surgery we’re offered an anesthesia, but when we have to make cuts in writing, there’s no pain medication to relieve the affliction. To revise or not can be a difficult choice to make, but my new motto is “no pain, no gain.”

Earlier this month I received my first MAJOR revision request. It was for a novel I recently wrote for young adults. In the past, my adult editor has requested small chunks removed, scenes added, and minor rewrites, but this was something altogether new to me. I’m talking about the kind of revision that’s bone-deep, plot and character reconstructive surgery. And boy does it hurt to imagine! At first, I could only put the email away and refuse to think about it.

When I eventually shared my pain with my husband, my critique partners, and my betas, they were like, “Are you crazy? Let’s do it!” And they’re right. For one reason, a respected industry professional suggested the revisions, and for another, after investing all the hours that went into a 60,000 page work—not to mention the time my peeps spent reading my efforts—my little story deserved the extra effort.

So, I’ve been on a quest to find the best advice on revision. Here’s what I’ve found:

1. First, after you’ve finished your original draft, set aside your story before you submit it. After a few weeks have passed, re-read it with fresh eyes for needed changes.

2. Let a beta reader (or several) read the entire manuscript, and ask them for a critique. Be open-minded to their thoughts and suggestions. This is as close to a real reader as you’ll get before publication.

3. Use a revision checklist, such as the one Nathan Bransford, an author and former literary agent, posted on his blog.

4. If you choose to make changes to the original (and I do suggest you make more than one draft of your story), there are several steps to revising. According to author Natalie Whipple’s great blog (BetweenFactAndFiction), there are three stages of revision: plot revisions, character revisions, and prose revisions. I highly recommend reading her excellent analysis of these stages and trying her strategies yourself.

4.  Another blogger I love is Holly Lisle. She offers great advice for self-revision here.

5. Go big or go home. Agent Mary Cole also offers some excellent posts on requested revisions on her blog. She says, don’t be “the kid pushing peas around on your plate.” If you’re lucky enough to receive some good advice, spend time on it. “Unless you make big changes, a revision isn’t worth doing. If you go out on a submission round and get roundly rejected, you’re not going to solve your problem by going back to the page to tweak a few words here and there. I’ve said this before, but look at the word revision…it means ‘to see again.’ To see your story in a whole new light.”

As for me, I’m going to the revision cave with an axe, a saw, and something to numb the pain.

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Wish for the Moon by Sandra Jones is available now from The Wild Rose PressAmazon, and Barnes and Noble

Matthias, a heroic knight, is accused of a horrible crime he doesn’t remember. Believing his guilt, he flees his home in shame, but in the flight he stumbles across an ancient portal taking him far away to the future. In modern day Wales & far from his troubles, Matthias  guards the mystery on his ancestral property as closely as he guards his own heart—until Carrie Greer, a modern-day herbalist, accidentally discovers his secret and drags him back to the hell he’d left behind in the 13th century. Thrust into close confines with Carrie, Matthias forms a tenuous bond with her that soon ignites a burning passion. Carrie’s faith becomes his inspiration as he fights inner demons that could shatter the bond of trust growing between them. Together they face enemies of the flesh and time as Matthias attempts to win Carrie’s love before his dark secret chases her away.


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