Revision: Making a Mess Less Complicated




by S.E. Jones

There’s a lot you can fix in a first draft. It’s why they’re first drafts. You can focus on character, world building, plot, inner cohesion, the writing, the flow, the pacing–the list goes on and on.

If you were to try and do it all at once, you’d go mad. Well I would anyway. So what to do?

The first thing I think you have to recognise is that there are things that you change which effect other things. If you change the plot, then you change the pacing. If you change the characters, you change the plot. On the other hand, changing the order of a sentence does not effect much except how the reader experiences your world (this is important, but it’s not going to cause massive changes to everything else).

You can fiddle with pacing without effecting character. You can correct for inner cohesion and extrapolate on your world building without having too much effect on everything else (this is not always true–sometimes when you change something to make sense, you realise you’ve created a massive plot hole), but it’s generally true.

I find the easiest way to approach revision is by concentrating on one thing at once. As there is no point in line editing if you’re going to delete that section of text because of a plot change, there is a certain order to these things. My plot comes from my characters (it’s just how I work), which is why my order is the way it is.

Revision order:

  1. First Draft : get everything down. figure out what I’m writing.
  2. Second Draft: revise for characters: arches, the interactions and consequences of the interactions between characters. Growth/change. Motivation.
  3. Third Draft: Plot–where are my acts, turning points, does my pacing work out, where are my scenes and sequels, do they make sense.
  4. Forth Draft: internal integrity and world building: does everything make sense, do I obey my own laws/world rules, ect.
  5. Fifth Draft: writing. Line by line stuff.

I find this approach takes what could be a very overwhelming process, and makes it far easier to handle. Some people may give pacing far more attention, some may put plot ahead of character, but again, I think the idea behind breaking it down like that still works quite well regardless of how you approach things.



Guest post contributed by S.E. Jones. S.E. is a writer and paramedic living in London. When not doing the above two things, she reads. Check out her website for more of her work.

19 thoughts on “Revision: Making a Mess Less Complicated

  1. I like this approach! When I revise I tend to get overwhelmed by trying to fix everything at once, so I like the idea of just focusing on one aspect at a time. I’m starting revisions on my WIP soon, so I will definitely keep this in mind. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Saved! My plan has always been to write the first draft and then go back over it, but after writing I often find myself dwelling on the latest chapter and can’t help but leave myself reminders on what to change. That the system above works well for others is reassuring to say the least.


  3. Well, I think every one of us has a system for revising that makes the most sense to us. I agree that in the first draft, we just want to bash everything down there, get it *out*. But then…? For me, I compulsively go over the last few paragraphs to fix anything glaring. Perish the thought that I leave a mistake in grammar or spelling (for example) behind me, unheeded!

    By the way, I found it very distracting that several times you wrote “effect” when it should have been “affect” in your context. You also wrote “forth” draft, when it should have been “fourth.” Sorry, I can’t help it, I’m a compulsive proofreader/editor! Ay yi!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    I never realized there was an order to doing drafts. I thought the first one was catching the obvious errors and noting issues like pacing, or mistakes in story line. The second one was to see if the changes you made are correct and fit with the rest of the story. The third one was to make sure it was ready for the publisher. This makes more sense. I usually do one edit before sending it to my editor.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Christopher Peter and commented:
    Useful advice here. My own approach is to kind of mix things up a bit more than this, but all these elements do need attention and it can be helpful to break down the process in this or a similar way. The important things is to find an approach that works best for you, and that may vary from book to book (it has for me at least).


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