Writing Discussion

Tips for Revising a Novel

When I first started out writing novels, the hardest part was figuring out how to finish. I had to write a few novels just to get a feel for the shape of a novel in my head: a sense of how much story goes into one, and where I’m at during any phase in the story.

What I didn’t anticipate was how difficult learning how to edit would be. The first time I sat down to edit a novel, I had no idea what I was doing or even where to begin. There is a lot of information online on how to write, but not quite as much about how to edit.

Revising has taken longest learning curve. It’s hard work, but it’s also worth it. It helps you close the gap between the story you truly set out to write, and what is actually on the page.

Some revision tips to try out

If you aren’t a linear thinker, try working from big to small. Start with examining the structure of the plot, before attempting to look at the sentence level edits your story requires. Do your chapters make sense in their current order? Are you missing any scenes? Are your character motivations believable? Is your world building complete? All of this happens before… does this paragraph express the emotion I want? Does this sentence need to be in the book? Is this redundant? There’s no point in making it pretty if you’re just going to cut the scene, or change something major. Grammar fixes go last.

If you, like me, can’t keep an entire novel in your head at one time, you might find it easier to do multiple drafts. I try to only focus on one or two aspects of the story per draft. An aspect could be anything: getting the romantic beats right, fixing the character development, fixing the dialog, etc.

Keep organized, or get organized after you complete your first draft (it’s never too late)! I keep a reference guide for myself which includes character names, their physical description, personality quirks. Also world building info, such as what the currency is called, what countries are named, the political or religious structures of the world. If you set your manuscript aside for a while between edits, you’re likely going to forget some things, so this helps you jump back in faster.

Print out an undated calendar and write in when key scenes in your story happen. This is especially helpful if you are writing on a compressed timeline.

Make a scene by scene outline. I’d be lost without mine, seriously, I never remember where or when something happens (sense a theme?). This is how I do my outline, and I’ve provided a template you can download. Super handy if you want to find a scene quickly, for example, what chapter did that first kiss happen in?

When you no longer know what else needs fixing, or you know something is broken, but not how to fix it, it’s time to get an outside perspective. Cue critique partners, and beta readers. 

Dealing with feedback

First of all, take a deep breath. Remember, these are all suggestions, and hopefully come from people you trust, and whose opinions you respect.

If I have feedback from multiple people, I prefer waiting until all the feedback is in and reading it at once. This allows you to find common themes. If multiple people point out the same problem, it’s probably a problem that needs to be addressed rather than personal opinion.

After you read the feedback, and squelch down that anger that your story wasn’t perfect, let the feedback sit with you a few days. The major points that need addressing will probably needle you over that time. If a particular bit of feedback keeps bothering you, it’s probably something you need to fix.

Come up with your own summary of the problems your readers pointed out, this gets you back into your head, and parsing it in a way that you understand best.

Make a new revision plan. For example, if the notes show you you need to work on a character’s backstory, figure out where a new scenes or flashbacks could be inserted. If you have a scene by scene outline like mine, I just insert a new row into the excel spreadsheet with where these should go, and move around scene rows so that they fit a better order. Just like before it helps to go from biggest to smallest issues. There’s no avoiding another draft, sorry to say.

Remember, everything is just a suggestion. You know the story best. Stick to your gut. It is your story. You don’t have to do anything you don’t feel is right for your story.

And don’t forget to thank the people that have given their time to read your messy draft!

Other helpful resources:

If you have tips, or more methods to this madness, I’d love to hear them! Comment below.


Writing Discussion

Thoughts on Author Branding

The great (and terrible) thing about the internet is that you never know where your tweets and posts are going to end up. If you’re aiming to build an online presence, it’s probably smart to approach social media with a game plan no matter how small your following.

As a former small business owner, I think about this probably too much. It’s not quite the same as building a business brand. It’s actually a lot easier, because you’re not trying to build up anything but yourself.

First off, what is author branding?

It’s simply the impression you give to people who encounter you. Your author branding is made up of your social media presence, the look of your blog or website, what people can find on Google, and how you present yourself.

Whether you know it or not, you already have a brand!

But what about ‘authenticity’?

Authenticity is a feeling people get that you’re being yourself and being genuine online. If you’re sharing things or talking about things you care about, you’re on the right track.

I find it helpful to think of my professional author self, versus my private self. My professional author self is still me, but it’s not all of me. It’s the same as how you might act differently at work, versus the way you act with your friends.

So how do you actually control/shape your author brand?

It’s all in in the way you choose what you share, and how you share it. To paraphrase Jess Keating (who had some of the smartest things to say about branding in her WriteOnCon presentation): you can treat it like steering a ship in a general direction rather than worrying about every small thing.

You should consider what you are comfortable sharing, and what things are important to you. Do you want to call attention to injustice in the world? Do you want to squee over k-drama because it gives you all the feels? Do you want to uplift other writers or offer advice to those just starting out? If you’re unsure, pick three main subjects you can post about regularly.

Things I consistently share: books by diverse writers, writing tips, and baking. I usually err for sincerity over sarcasm (because I don’t think it always translates well on Twitter). So I suppose my brand is carb loving writer Theresa, who values diversity in publishing, and maybe isn’t super silly, but is still (hopefully) friendly.

There is can be a visual component to branding (the look of your website or the tone of your Instagram posts), but it’s not the most important part of this unless you’ve got books coming out soon.

But author brands change over the years, because both people and their circumstances change. So don’t sweat it. You can always try something new if what you’re doing isn’t working for you anymore.

Setting Personal Rules for Social Media

And so, once you’ve decided what parts of yourself you want to share with the world, it also helps to set some rules so that you don’t put a foot in your mouth. You also need to think about what is good for your mental health and the boundaries you need to protect yourself too.

I can’t tell you what rules to set, but are a few of mine:

  1. I will never tweet if I’m angry, upset, or sad. I give myself a cool down period before responding to something that I feel strongly about. I will give myself at least 4 hours, but the next day is better. By then, usually calmer heads have joined in the conversation, or I have calmed down enough to think things through. (Rule)
  2. I will not retweet an article or thread unless I’ve read the entire thing and I think that I have understood all it’s contents. If I feel like something is off about it, or some part is confusing, I will not tweet it. (Rule)
  3. I try to boost marginalized authors and opportunities for marginalized authors. I can’t always keep up, because my social media time is limited, but I will if I spot them. (Boundary = accepting I can’t always keep up with social media)

So really… author branding isn’t some intimidating thing at all. None of this info here is about follower counts or building a platform to sell books, it’s just about who you are and how you are presenting that to the world.

Do all authors of fiction need a web presence? Nope! But, I still believe social media helpful for meeting writer friends, and a website is useful if you expect agents/editors/clients to look you up.

And if you want to burn bridges, make sure that you do it on purpose 😉

Extra Reference

Are you unsure what your author brand is? Post links to your social media or websites below and I’ll try to give you my first impressions.