Revision: Bumps, Bruises and Colored Pens

Revision by Kirstie Earlene

Twenty-thousand words to go. My first revision is nearly over. I was directionless in the beginning. I flailed, trying to fix holes, not really knowing what was missing. I spent several months on a single scene agonizing over the minutia because something “wasn’t right.”

I finally realized I needed better tools. I purchased access to the Writer’s Digest Tutorials. Armed with the information in these videos I was able to make huge leaps in my understanding, not only of the elements missing, but also the things I had done particularly well.

My confidence soared.

The trouble is, that with new knowledge comes a new understanding of your work. I realized I had missed many things the first time through. I want to offer the best I have and my best will take another revision…or two.

But that’s okay.

These bumps and bruises are a great learning experience. I may have experienced a set back in my time frame, but I gained a deeper understanding, not only of my novel, but of my own writing, my strengths, and my weaknesses. This new knowledge can inform my future and make the process for myself, and my future agent easier. Learning from the bumps, and bruises along the way is a part of life.

It’s uncomfortable.

It’s very uncomfortable, even painful, seeing your manuscript full of colored lines marking problems. But here’s the thing, the saving grace, the discomfort helps you grow.

Yes. Being uncomfortable during the revision process is important. You should feel like you are riding over a road littered with potholes. You have to keep a firm grip on the steering wheel to avoid going off the road, it’s hard, it’s exhausting, it’s painful, and it’s uncomfortable, but at the end of that ride you have grown. You can handle a pothole riddled road and are a better driver for it. Writing and revision are the same. The more you push yourself beyond comfort, the more you will improve. It is critical to use those pens, sticky notes, highlighters, or whatever techniques you choose, to assess and evaluate your writing.

Make yourself uncomfortable.

You should squirm in your chair at all the naive errors. You should want to scratch the itch of an inconsistent setting or a lack of tension. These should make you uncomfortable to the point where you want nothing more than to fix them and find all the little problems so none of those discomforts remain when you read your work.

The reward for temporary discomfort is success and wild improvement in your ability.

Every time I have moved to a foreign country, whether to study or to live, it has thrown me out of my comfort zone. Each time I have grown as a person. The same is true in my writing. Every time I push beyond what is comfortable, I discover new, better ways of telling the story rattling around in my head.

I urge you, in your life, in your revisions, to make yourself uncomfortable. Do not fall into complacency. Demand the absolute best from yourself. Push yourself to discomfort then go a little further. That’s where the growth happens, that’s when you discover your best, most clever ideas and stories.

Don’t seek perfection, that’s a never-ending trail that leads to doom. Seek the best you are capable of now. Seek to challenge your limits and you’ll find most of them weren’t really limits at all, only obstacles to overcome.

Revision is not your enemy.
The colored pens are not your enemy.
Revision and colored pens (stickies etc.) are your tools.

They help you to be uncomfortable, to innovate, to create, to discover new ways of telling the story that’s in your soul.
Let discomfort be your friend and companion, she’ll teach you to be your best self.



Here are some of my favorite resources to help you grow:

Writer’s Digest Tutorials
An incredible resource on everything from genre writing to querying, editing and revision. All from top professionals in the industry.

Ink and Quills
A fantastic website and blog with lots of helpful tips!

Writing with Emotion, Tension and Conflict, by Cheryl St. John
A fabulous book that provides great exercises and examples of how to build and maintain these three important factors in your novel.

Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
A funny, informative book that really helps you nail down the special aspects of your chosen narrator, and the special details that make characters compelling and memorable. I highly recommend this book for character development! 

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport
This is not strictly related to writing but it is invaluable for building your mindset and your attitude toward skill building. His thesis is unconventional, but his advice and thinking is sound. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to improve themselves and their work. 

I also highly recommend following Literary Agents and Editors on Twitter! They post useful information, and tips that can be an invaluable insight into the industry and the people we writers depend on.


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