8 Tips to Surviving the Revision Process

TIP 1: Be realistic about your deadline

I know we’re all desperate to please our editors and agents, but we’re not writing machines programmed to churn out edits at light speed, as much as we’d love to give off that impression. If you know the deadline you’ve been given isn’t achievable, let your editor and agent know as soon as possible and try to negotiate something you can actually meet.

It’s much worse to miss a deadline than to ask for a revised one.

TIP 2: Set up a ‘Work Zone’

It’s sometimes difficult for family members to appreciate how much concentration is needed to do revisions. When they see you staring wistfully out of the window, it may seem to them like you’re just goofing off /spying on the neighbours / redesigning your fantasy garden in your mind, but little do they know you’re actually trying to work out a particularly sticky plot-hole.

Every little distraction takes you out of the world, disrupts your flow, and in the end just wastes so much time.

To help get around this, dedicate an area of your house as your ‘work zone’, and let your family know that when you’re sitting there you are not to be disturbed. At all. Ever.

At times I had to relegate my poor hubbie up to the bedroom so I could work. He was very understanding, but sometimes you do have to be blunt and ask them to leave you alone to work. This is obviously a lot easier said than done, especially if you have children, but our loved ones do want us to succeed and be happy, so will be willing to do what it takes to help you out, at least from my experience!

Remember, this is a job, and you wouldn’t allow people to disrupt you at your office, so don’t allow it at home either.

TIP 3: Arrange a big social gathering after your deadline

If you’re up against a tight deadline, chances are you’re going to have to blow off all social engagements until they’re done. This can be a little demoralising, so arrange a big get together with everyone to celebrate handing in your revisions. It’ll give you a nice treat to focus on, and it’ll also let your friends and family know they haven’t been forgotten now you’re a ‘big-shot writer’ (ha ha).

TIP 4: Do your prep-work 

When facing an impending deadline, there is a temptation to just dive straight in and hope you can work out the edits as you go along. This will waste time in the long run. So spend a few days going over your editorial letter and notes, write solutions to all the issues and if you have any ideas or questions raise them with your editor at this stage.

Getting it all sorted up front will allow you to focus on just writing, rather than stressing about what happens as you go along, and avoid too many “OMG did I remember to bring that character back to life?” moments.

Of course, things always crop up as you go along, but doing the prep will help  prevent you getting too stressed when they do.

TIP 5: Get a writing schedule together

If you have a 350 page novel and only 4 weeks to deliver it, work out how many pages a day you’ll have to edit in order to meet this deadline. Be realistic. You do have other commitments, so be honest about the amount of hours each day you can dedicate to this and then set your targets accordingly.

Also, do remember some parts of the book will take longer to fix than others, so factor this in to your daily estimate and try and keep those tough revisions for days where you can spend more time on them.

TIP 6: Say goodbye to sleep

The hours are long, so be prepared for it. On week days I was working from 4.30pm-2am (after doing a full day at the office) then on weekends I was working from 7am-3am. The hours were like this for many weeks, and there wasn’t a single day off. So let family and friends know that you’re going to be tired, see if you can get help around the house for chores as you won’t have time to do them, and just accept the fact you’re going to be exhausted. This is why Tip 3 ‘Arrange a big social gathering after your deadline’, is so important, as you’ll need it to motivate you.

TIP 7: Segment your MS into bite-sized chunks

There is nothing more daunting than looking at your full manuscript and realising how much work there is ahead of you. If you’ve set a daily target of, say, 15 pages, a good psychological trick is to separate your MS into multiple sections of 15 pages. Then each day, only take out the 15 pages you need to work on and leave the rest in a binder, hidden away from sight. I can assure you 15 pages looks a lot more achievable than 350.

TIP 8: Do your daily edits in a different Word doc

Similar to above, it can be very demoralizing when you look down at the page count on your document to discover you’re only on page 60 of 350. It can feel quite overwhelming knowing how much work there is ahead of you. So a little trick is to copy and paste the 15 pages you’re going to edit that day into another Word doc, and work on them separately. Again, it’ll feel more manageable and you’ll get a great sense of achievement when you know you’ve completed 15 of 15 pages, rather than only 75 of 350.



  1. Elizabeth, this is fantastic. As I said in my interview with you, I admire your dedication and it inspires me to work harder.

    I’m not at that point where I am doing editorial revisions, but I will be optimistic and print this out for future perusal.

    Thanks a bunch!

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