How to Revise a Novel – Rules for the Rewrite
Every writer knows that their story has to go through its edits and revisions, just as a parent
knows that their perfect child will become an adult only after he has struggled through the
torturous and horrifying scenario of adolescence. With that surrender to the certainty of your fate
as a writer, I have collected some of the fundamental guides uncovered through my exhaustive
research into how to revise a novel. Here they are in no specific order:
A writer or an editor be, never the twain should work in your head at the same time. The writer
is a positive, sensitive, creative sort who tells stories about people (fictional or non) who he
loves. An editor is a critical, heartless and unsympathetic person who finds flaws. The two
cannot work together.
Your idea and story are just right – now change them. Love your story at the concept stage;
love it while you’re writing the first draft. Then rewrite with no attachment or emotional
commitment. If you can’t clear your mind and look at the manuscript with fresh eyes, put it
Rewrite the entire manuscript. After reading, making notes and suffering through feedback
and critique, avoid the temptation of merely “editing” the text on your computer. The typical
error of finding words, either out of place in a sentence or missed, is a phenomenon of the word
processor. This error will be less likely to happen if you are rewriting from scratch. This also
forces you to read and hear every line as opposed to the skimming we tend to do over the text
when we already know it.
Edit backwards. Read and edit the text of a manuscript paragraph by paragraph, or bit by bit
from the end of the story to the beginning. This avoids getting caught up in the story and helps
you focus on the text.
Understand the critique. I received some scathing comments from critics about my story,
which hurt because I had built up a following and had many supporting comments. I did not want
to place one critic’s opinion over the praise of many but I wanted to understand what he didn’t
like about the story, so I asked. As it turns out he was angry at something else and my story was
how he vented it. He apologised and offered me some constructive comments, which I took to
heart. Ultimately, I benefited from something I was initially going to blow off and resent.
Don’t be afraid to start further back. If your story needs a major rewrite, go back to the
outline and work forward from there. You have the convenience of knowing what is happening
in the story so your characters and plot are less likely to change on you.
You can finish reading this article on our website about how to revise a novel.