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!


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!

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.
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