Revising: 3 Essential Steps

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I have a book due Friday. I had a complete draft by last Saturday, and I’ll work through it twice by Friday. All it takes is these three steps.

Show Up to Work

Step #1 is the most important. First things first, you have to show up to work. I am not a brilliant morning writer. The reality is that I do my best work in the afternoon. But when I have to work through 15,000 words twice, I sit down and get to work in the morning. That way I can generally work through two chapters a day when I am revising draft #1. When I’m fine tuning it, I will work through the whole book in a single day. To get all of this done, I have to . . .

Take Breaks

This step is vital but it is one that we frequently one to scrimp on. “No, I don’t have time for a break! I must sit and work!”

I used to believe this but my brain gets antsy. That’s what my grandmother used to call it. My focus is shot. I’m wiggly and don’t want to sit still. I am restless and looking for anything that I can use to distract myself. But if I take a break my focus is much better when I come back.

On Screen and In Print

Some people only want to work on screen, and that’s fine early in my process. But when I get to that final read through, I need to work with a print copy. The reality is that I spot things in print that I skim over and miss when I am working on a screen. So I print off my manuscript and I take it into the dining room. I sort and stack it so that I can pick it up one chapter at a time. I read through Chapter 1 and mark it up. Then I go into my office and make the changes. Then I am back to the dining room to repeat the process. This helps me get some movement in and encourages me to take a break when needed.

Meeting deadlines is vital but so are the breaks that help me get there. They don’t have to be long and are often only 10 or fifteen minutes. Today I took an hour long break and ran to the store. Shopping? What the heck? I hate shopping and I know I will get it done and get back to work ASAP but it also meant that I got to take a walk.

What do you do when you take a break?