The 7 Stages of Revision

I recently got editing notes back from my publisher, Evil Jester Press. To my surprise, I found that there is an emotional process to editing, and it has stages. The 7 stages of the revision process are slowly revealing themselves to me:

1. Anxious Anticipation

This is the first stage, often overlooked because it takes place before a single editing note is given. This stage occurs in the time when your book has been accepted by a publisher, but before you get your notes from your editor. How long this stage lasts depends on how long it takes the editor to get your notes to you.

2. Freaked-out Excitement

When your notes hit your in-box, excitement surges through your body. Suddenly, the fact of your book’s publication feels REAL. The forward movement brings a giddy smile. Then you open the notes, read them, and the freak-out begins. I can’t do this! It’s too much! It’s overwhelming! My book stinks so much, I can’t believe the publisher ever accepted it!

3. Accepting Reality

Slowly, the overwhelmed stress leaches away, and reality sets in. The notes are fair, and you can see how they will improve the book. You know it will not be a fast process, but that you CAN do it. You accept the challenge to take your book to the next level.

4. Organized Chaos

The notes you receive may or may not be highly organized. Even if they are, the notes may not be organized in the best way for your brain. Every writer’s editing process is unique, just as each writer’s writing process is unique. For me, I took my notes and divided them into “Technical Notes” and “Creative Notes.” The Technical Notes range from the formatting of the titles to raking through the manuscript to edit out as many passive verbs as possible. They are the fixes that, although often time-consuming, are not creatively taxing. The Creative Notes are the ones that will require rewriting or new writing, such as fleshing out the world or tweaking the voice.

5. Diving In

Once you’ve gotten the notes organized, it’s time to dive in! Take the notes in whatever order suits your process. I tend to do the easiest fixes first, then work up to the hardest. Other writers prefer to get the harder fixes out of the way and end with the easy stuff. It’s a personal choice.

6. Fear of Failure

This is where I am currently. Oddly enough, even as I am making progress in many notes, I still worry that I will not be able to deal with the harder, often subtler issues, such as voice and world-deepening. That somehow my creativity will fail me at a crucial moment, and I will end up with a book almost perfect in the nuts and bolts while lacking in soul. I push the fear aside, trying to tackle one thing at a time. I have to trust that my Muse will come when I need her, as she always has.

7. Success

This is the final stage! If you work hard, focus, and keep chipping away, you will get there. You will finish, and your book will be better for all the extra work. I’m estimating that I will arrive at this stage in several weeks—perhaps a month if my Muse takes a vacation at an inopportune time or life events get in the way.

So there you have the 7 Stage of Revision! Where do you get mired? What stage are you in right now? Do you have any tips to get through the process more efficiently?

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Editing: We’re Never Finished; We’re Just Done

I once had a non-writer friend of mine ask, “Aren’t you EVER done editing?”

The answer, as every writer knows, is: “No.” Every published author I’ve spoken to has told me that even when they pick up their published books, they see things they want to change. One said when he does readings, he’ll change the words to what he wished he wrote instead.

We’re never finished—but sometimes we just have to be done.

When you’re on deadline to deliver a finished product, there comes a time when you have to be done, whether you like it or not. But what about before you’ve got that book deal? You could theoretically edit forever.

But you don’t want to edit forever. Eventually, you have to get your work out there—self-published or sent to agents or publishers. If you don’t ever send it out, you’ll never reach an audience. If you don’t stop fiddling with book #1, you will never write a book #2. So at some point you need to declare your book “done.”

For me, that’s usually the 7th or 8th version of the manuscript. There are many more revisions than that, but I usually do “small” revisions with a version, and only change the version number when I’m doing “large” revisions. My revision schedule goes something like this:

Version 1: First draft

Version 2: Clean-up of first draft to make it readable

Then I often do a storyboard to see what scenes I need to add, delete, move around.

Version 3: Draft with all of the above incorporated

Version 4: Do a clean-up, tighten, find typos, etc.

Run it through my critique partners and beta readers

Version 5: Make changes per their suggestions

Version 6: Another clean-up edit, try to make sure hit word count, read aloud

Send to professional developmental editor

Version 7: Make developmental edits. (Often includes banging head against wall and/or crying, “I can’t do this!”)

Version 8: Read through version 7 silently for continuity. Do clean-up edit. Then read aloud for final polish.

So that’s roughly my process. By the time I hit version 8, I am emotionally and mentally done with the book. I know I have done all I can do without further professional input. So I send it out into the world, to agents and publishers, and hope I’ve done my job well enough to attract their attention.

So, no, my non-writing friend, I am never finished editing. I am just done.

How do you know when you’re done editing?

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