Wednesday, January 19, 2011


So you've written a book.


Uh... no.

TIME TO REVISE? (yay! Revisions...! mumbles...)

Right! So what happens when you revise? 
  • Look for the "big picture stuff" like:
    • Plot
    • Pacing
    • Character development
    • Overall story arc
  • Don't worry about:
    • Spelling
    • Grammar
    • Formatting
You work work work work work work work and work some more, and then when you've fixed all those plot holes and merged those two characters, and erased that one scene and added in those three other ones, now you should have a decent book!


    Not so fast, young whippersnapper.  Now it's time to EDIT!

    Wha? Didn't we just...?

    Now it's time to go back and do that spelling/grammar/formatting stuff that you ignored earlier. It's best to not try to do them both at the same time. You want to be focusing on that story problem, not comma splices, when you do revisions. Then, when it's time to edit, you won't have to worry about plot holes as you zap those adjectives! Adding stuff in, taking stuff out... If you're rearranging and shuffling and making a mess of your novel while trying to copyedit too, you'll be wasting time and mental energy.


    Well, no.

    NO? :(

    Now you should let your book sit. For like a month or more. And then--

    A MONTH??!

    Yeah, the longer the better. Get yourself away from that book and work on another book for awhile distance yourself. Read some books.


    It's okay. After some time, bring that book back out and repeat both revisions and edits. I bet you'll find some more mistakes! And we want our books to be the best we can, right? Right! 

    So then after another round of revisions and edits, now you can




    Now you can send it to alpha readers, and beta readers, and critique partners, and maybe even hire a freelance editor! And then do MORE revisions and edits!


    Yeah, lots of edits. But it's a tough market out there. You want your book to be the cream of the crop. Don't give agents/pub houses a reason to pass on your book. Make them fight over you.


    Ok, calm down. 

    So now that you've revised and edited and you've made it the best possible book you can make it...



    C.A. Marshall is a freelance editor, lit agent intern, YA writer, and loves to play with her dog Mollie. She dreams of one day owning a small house near the water, preferably in England, with a shelf full of books she has written and has helped others to write. She is currently single. And unagented. She can be found in Emmett, MI and at


    1. This post was so helpful - I will have to keep in mind putting story revisions before editing. Thanks for the great post! :)

    2. Love it! Such great, sound advice ;o)

    3. Great post, Cass. I want an AGENTFIGHT! :D

    4. Good post, Cassandra!

    5. Where was this post a year ago? I had to learn the hard way (through my own trial and error) that you clean up story THEN clean up the grammar. It's a tiny thing when you think about it but saves you a boat load of time later.

    6. I'm glad you found it helpful, KT!

      <3, E!

      Yes, AGENTFIGHT, B! Woo!

      Thank you, Karen!

      Sucks that you had to learn it the hard way, Dana, but at least you know now, right? You're learning and that's always good!

    7. This post really depressed me. Sorry! It's true. I have read similar advice in many other places. These posts seem to be directed at what I think of as "puppy authors" who are eager to jump all over an agent with their manuscript.

      But what about those of us who suffer from a lack of confidence? What advice would you have? I have been working on the same book for four years. (Off and on in my spare time, not like full-time every day, but still.) I don't actually have a complete manuscript yet (thought it's very close) because I keep losing confidence part-way through and going back to the beginning.

      I've spent much time the past four years blogging, reading other blogs, reading about writing, taking writing classes, and doing everything I can to learn the craft. I've sent the first few chapters out quite a few times to writers I know and trust for feedback, and that is one of the things that always sends me back to the starting point again.

      I have an opportunity to go to a real writer's conference with real agents in March. I know I should go, but I'm terrified. I'm normally a confident person, but this whole writing thing just has me tied up in knots.

      How do I know when it's really good enough to submit? Or, perhaps, when I should just give up and admit I'm not cut out for this business?

    8. Christine,
      I'm no expert, but I'll share my thoughts with you ;o) Sometimes stepping away from your book and writing something new helps gain confidence back. I certainly have times where my faith in what I'm doing wavers. I think it's completely normal. Complete your MS. It's hard to have confidence when you don't have something completed. There's always that lingering feeling.

      Start something new! Keep the story on the back burner for a while. Maybe, try a new genre? I know that helped me. I love YA, but I started off as Adult.

      Go to the conference and have a great time. The more you get out there, the more I think you'll find your confidence returning.

      Good luck and keep writing!

    9. Excellent advice, E!

      Christine, I had a writer ask me this same question awhile back and I did a post about it here:

      Here's the reposted text:

      Empty Refrigerator asks:
      "When do you know you're DONE, really DONE, with revising a novel? Sometimes I feel like I revise to death."

      You don’t.

      If you’ve had some beta readers/critique partners/a freelance editor to look it over until you can’t possibly do anything else to it, put it away for a few months. Then revise again.

      After that, you’ll just have to pick a time to say, ‘Nope, there’s nothing else I can do to make this better’ and let it go.

      Even authors with published books sometimes say that they’d go back and change things in their novels. They’ve changed/grown/learned over time and that novel might not reflect their style anymore.

      But that’s okay. Think of it as a time capsule. It’s great to see how far you’ve come over time.


      You just gotta come to the edge and jump. It's a decision that only you can make, and I sincerely wish you all the confidence in the world!

      I hope that helps!

    10. I'm not sure what happened to my previous comment. It disappeared! So I'll try again, and I apologize if somehow it posted twice.

      Thank you very much C.A. and Erica for your kind and very quick replies! I think I'm way past the "lay it aside for a while" stage that Erica mentioned, although I appreciate her advice and it's generally good to do. I feel like it's really time for me to wrestle this thing to the mat, edit it, polish it, and take it to the conference two months from now with the intention of pitching it to an agent, if I have the opportunity. I really wouldn't spend that much money, frankly, unless I was using it to promote myself, and for that I need a finished manuscript.

      If I can't do that, or am unwilling to, I have to question how serious I really am about getting published, and why I'm writing in the first place. So that's why I'm feeling overwhelmed right now.

      Thanks again! I will definitely be stopping back here every day for information and advice. And (shameless plug) I am having a contest on my blog The Writers Hole to celebrate the 4th anniversary of starting my novel, with some really great prizes, so stop on over!

    11. Such a true post Cass. I've definitely gone the way of querying-too-soon in the past *cringe* And there really isn't a bigger waste of energy imo. You and Erica also gave Christine great advice!!

    12. Christine, I had a very similar experience. I packed away my manuscript and started a totally different middle grade project (way different voice), at the end of that first draft, my YA starting eating at me, gnawing at my soul, until I just had to dive in again. What a difference that rewrite made! It's resting again, chilling out on my hard drive and I can't wait to see what happens next!

      Cassandra, thanks for the heads-up on this post. Perfect way to end the day.

    13. I don't know how many times I've read this post now, but it makes me laugh every time. Like, serious lol here. Ok, maybe not "laugh out loud," but there's no cute chatspeak for "chuckle quietly to myself so as not to disturb others or get fired."

      But anyway, yeah. This was totally helpful... and CQTMSANTDOOGF funny.