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The 12 Highs and Lows of Revising Your Manuscript

As if writing a complete draft for a novel wasn’t hard enough—now you have to go back and face what you’ve created.

No matter how seasoned a writer you are, the revision process is an emotional roller coaster, full of extreme and sometimes unexpected highs and lows. It’s enough to drive an author crazy.

Manuscript Revision

Photo by Eric Lynch (Creative Commons). Adapted by The Write Practice

Why tell you this? Because you should know that you aren’t on this crazy ride alone. Take heart—don’t let these stages stop you from polishing up your manuscript, but rather help you get the inevitable rough patches.

Here it is, the twelve highs and lows of the manuscript revision process:

1. I’ve totally got this.

I’m going to whip through this. I’ll just push through in a month of hard work,  and ill have a nice shiny polished manuscript ready for agents to fight over. I’m pretty good at grammar so this will be fast and painless.

2. Hey, look at me. I’m an editor. I’m editing.

This isn’t so bad! Everyone seems so afraid of editing, but this is fine. Maybe I’m just a better editor than those people. Or a better writer. Or both.

3. Wow, editing is hard.

That positive momentum didn’t get me as far as I expected. And this scene isn’t as good as I remembered. It’s going to take a little work. Oof.

4. Hey, this writing is good!

This manuscript is awesome. I saw it in a store and didn’t know it was by me, I’d totally buy it. Go me.

5. I hate this.

I take it all back. I’m awful. All of this is just wrong. The words, the sentences, the ideas, all of it.

6. Just cruising along.

Sure, there’s been some rough patches, but overall, this is okay. Editing power!

7. HAHAHA. NO! Everything is awful.

Oh wow. Wowwwww. No, nothing here works even a little bit. It’s going to take me days just to rewrite this. and then the rewrite all probably also be awful.

8. Didn’t I write an end to this story?

Because I feel like I’ve been editing for about as twice as long as I’ve actually been alive. And somehow I’m still only about halfway through. And it’s still miserable.

9. Deepest depths of devastation.

I should never be allowed to so much as look at a keyboard again. What is this horrific drawl? Who let me do this?

Just tie my hands behind my back and don’t release me no matter what I say, just stop me from ever committing such an atrocity again.

10. So. Close.

I’m so close to the end, just a few thousand words to go. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…

11. That wasn’t so bad!

Now that I’m done I feel great. Maybe even kind of elated. You know, like when you’re done running a marathon, and can finally stop running and you can’t even remember how much your legs hurt anymore because you’re just so happy it’s over. I’d even call it empowering.

12. Just one more thing …

But I wouldn’t mind looking over that one trouble scene one more time. Or maybe also Chapter six. Maybe I should revise the full manuscript just one more time.

Don’t let the process get you down

The only way to get through revisions is to keep at it. You may never stop feeling the highs and lows of revising your work, but with practice, you can learn to recognize the symptoms for what they are—simply part of the process.

Sure, editing can be rough, but it’s the only way to turn your draft into a finalized work. And that’s worth a little sweat and tears.

How do you get through manuscript revisions? Share in the comments section!

PRACTICE

Pull up a current or old work, and take about fifteen minutes to revise it. As you go, pay attention to the emotions that arise. How did it feel to re-read your work? How did it feel to edit and improve it?

Share your reflections in the comments, and encourage commenters with replies!

About Emily Wenstrom

By day, Emily Wenstrom, is the editor of short story website wordhaus, author social media coach, and freelance content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstrom, a sci-fi and fantasy author whose first novel Mud will release in March 2016.

  • Terrific, Emily. You NAILED the process. The insight for the TWP community is DO NOT PANIC when you’re disappointed when you read your full, first draft — especially for something quite long, like a novel. I’m always a little disheartened, thinking “Ohhhhh. I thought it’d be BETTER than this.”

    That’s when the editing, revising and rewriting begin.

    • Oof, I know the feeling! But take heart, we’re often our own worst critics, and that eyes-wide-open approach is the best way to a killer final manuscript. Thanks for sharing!

  • Debbie Ratliff

    I m currently somewhere between number 7 and number 8, and not looking forward to number 9, but I know it’s coming. You’re spot on… a twelve-step program for writers! Thanks for posting… I know I’m not alone!

    • Absolutely, stay calm & edit on 🙂 Good luck as you push through the rest!

    • Kira Jessup

      Haha, this is me at the moment too 🙂

    • You’re never alone, Debbie. Keep up the great work! It will pay off! 🙂

  • Gary G Little

    Ok, I don’t have a manuscript but I have been through all of them writing software, plus a few bullet points added to some of the items.

    11.a. Friday: Freedom!! Projects in Beta test! Sunday afternoon phone call: Whatayamean it wiped the customers database!?!?

    12.a. Whatyamean that doesn’t work! I didn’t even know it could DO that!!!

    During the course of a project I’ve suffered all of these mountain tops of joy and valleys of degredation. The best one though is not on the list.

    #13. Nearing the end of a project you find out marketing sold it with an optional framis you have never heard of. Fine, let those a……s in marketing write the f…..g code!! (Actually the expletives would continue for quite sometime.)

  • Babbitt

    Oh, I can so relate. I’m in the middle of a revision and am experiencing all of this. Thanks for the laugh!

    • Yep this is my LIFE right now. Glad I’m not alone 🙂

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Oh sweet lord – I jump through these emotions while penning a 500-word blog post, so I can only imagine what book-authors must be experiencing! LOL

    Thank you for a post-lunch laugh 😉

  • Thank you for your article. I’d be at stage 7 and put my mansucript down….ages ago. After reading this I’ve picked it up again from the ‘To-do-later’ pile and scheduled 30 mins in my day to chip away at it. Good to know I’m not the only one. Cheers :-).

    • You are most definitely not alone–we’re all suffering along with you. But the good news is if you keep pushing through the rough patches, you *will* come back around to loving your work again. Oh, the writer’s curse! Good luck!

  • Oh man, I am doing everyone of those things now that I actually finished writing the book. (Maybe). I can go through each one of these every day. It’s good to know that other people feel the same way.

    • I always tell myself, if you’re struggling with the editing process, that’s a good sign you’re doing it right. Small comfort, I know, but I bet you’ll be proud of your final work when you get there!

  • Awesome post, Emily! I love the inner dialogue!

    Editing my manuscript is something that I don’t look forward too, but I know that it’s a necessary process. So I want to look at it as a fun challenge–something to conquer and learn from! 🙂

    Best wishes to everyone who’s in the editing stage. Don’t give up! Your story is worth it!

    Cheers,
    Joy

    • It really IS a fun challenge a lot of the time — but there’s definitely days I’m tempted to just delete the whole thing. Thanks for the encouraging words Joy, and best wishes as you get into revisions yourself!

  • Susan W A

    Editing and revising? What’s that? ha ha Never has been my strong suit to go back after the fact to truly rework a piece (more than small changes), whether it was an assignment for school or a creative piece I wrote for myself or a friend. (I’m not even to the short story phase in my writing development.) For some reason when I go to revise something, I get this weird feeling that I want to “preserve” the piece as it was created. I guess that’s what the “save as” button is for. LOL

    Love the post and the informed comments. Thanks for sharing your experience so I can learn and be inspired.

  • I love this post! I don’t know how many times I thought for sure I was done. Happily give it to my beta readers, thinking ”I am totally done’. I think as you plug along, the reality of what a huge job editing is hits home. Which is why I eventually hired an editor. I got pretty good with basic proofreading, but not enough. When I reached stage 9, I realized I need more help.

  • Ohhh yes. I can definitely relate to all of these, especially 1, 7, and 12. (Okay, especially 7.) Although I’ve found that editing really does get better with time and practice. It’s not always fun, but it’s easier. I actually like line edits, it’s just the big things that frustrate me. Changing the plot, moving scenes around, cutting characters all together, fixing inconsistencies, it’s all such a hassle. But seeing what my story becomes after doing it is amazing. It’s like a completely different book. 🙂

    • I agree! I have read my published novel three times now and, except for 3 typos I missed, I am like “Wow, I am an awesome writer!” Of course, it took me seven edits and revisions and two edits from my editor, but still . . . I DID IT! 😉
      Check out my debut novel about a war the U.S. wrongly supported: http://tinyurl.com/klxbt4y

  • Cheryl

    When I edit I have to print out the page I am working on. For some reason I cannot edit on my computer screen. Does anyone else have this problem? Good luck everyone! Never give up!

  • Claire Luana

    Yes! Truth. Thanks for this, Emily!

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