An All-Around Guide to Editing and Revising

I am of the opinion that, just like writing, there’s no one “right way” to revise a novel. You have to experiment with different methods until you find the right one for you. There are, however, a wealth of tips and tricks out there on the Internet and in your local bookstore that can help you piece together your very own, special-as-a-snowflake method.

First of all, there are two books I read in preparation for my current revision that are really shaping how I think about my work. They are:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print, by Renni Browne and Dave King

This one covers nearly all the bases, attacking all those bad habits that you indulge in during your first draft. Which is all well and good, because that’s what first drafts are. But in the editing process, you have to let your strict, be-spectacled taskmaster out of that closet you shoved him into six months earlier. Browne and King show just how to really let that taskmaster roll, right down to examples from both classic and contemporary literature to which they apply their own principles. The authors also offer exercises at the end of each chapter, so the reader can practice what (s)he’s learned.


  • Take notes. As I read, I got so overwhelmed by all the wonderful and pertinent advice that I feared I might forget something. I made sure to capture on paper all the bits and pieces that I knew were my worst offenses. And before each editing session, I review those notes so that each important point is stuck in my head.
  • Invest in several colors of highlighters. For each “no-no” that they outline, they advise going through your manuscript and highlighting each offense you’ve committed. I plan to do this on my second pass of Grim Light, after I’ve caught all the basic stuff. I fully expect to emerge on the other side with a very, um, colorful manuscript.

Spunk and Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style by Arthur Plotnik

This book takes everything you learned from Elements of Style–you have read Elements, right?–and tells you just when to use or disregard all those time-honored bits of advice. It’s true, many years have passed since the first publication of the hallowed Writer’s Bible, and it’s also true that–gulp–much of the advice contained therein doesn’t always apply anymore. Go ahead, purists, throw your hats and rotten tomatoes and shoes at me. But it’s all a matter of knowing when to follow the path that was laid out decades ago, and when to veer off in a new direction. This book, I hope, will show you the way.


  • Again, take notes. It can be overwhelming at times.
  • Be prepared for some serious hits to your ego when you realize that it’ll take a long, long while before you can successfully apply a lot of the advice in this book. It’ll take some serious creativity and brain-stretching, but it’ll be worth it. I’m not there, yet, of course–not anywhere near there–but I can see the payoff already.


I’ve covered some of these before, but they all bear repeating. And there are a few new additions, as well. All very valuable.

Holly Lisle: How to Revise a Novel

This really helped streamline my editing process, both physically and mentally.

Holly Lisle: One-Pass Manuscript Revision: From First Draft to Last in One Cycle

Again with the streamlining.

Tess Gerritsen: The Second Draft

What to look for when you’re editing.

Tia Nevitt: Word for the Novelist: Revisions, Part ONE and Part TWO

This is part of Tia’s very informative and helpful Word for the Novelist series. She’s a super-power-user of Word, and seems to know every facet of this complex application. If you use Word, I highly recommend perusing both the Revisions section of this guide, as well as the guide as whole. Links to each section can be found in her sidebar.

So that, my friends, is the complete list of all the elements that have shaped my revision process. Read, bookmark, and give them a try. And if you have any other links or recommended books, feel free to share in the comments, and we’ll add to the list!

P.S. And if you’re beyond the revision process at this point and on the hunt for beta readers, Absolute Write is launching a beta-matching project on December 25, although you can sign up for it right now.

Happy revising!

One thought on “An All-Around Guide to Editing and Revising

  1. I think I’ve struck gold with my beta readers. 🙂

    I didn’t expect to find myself in this list! Thanks for the linkage!

Comments are closed.