Thursday, July 28, 2022

Three Book Recommendations to Help You Tackle Revisions

I have a picture book manuscript that I have revised 17 times. Ultimately, my agent couldn’t sell it, even though she tried for a solid year. It was a biography about a white male from Scotland in the 1800s about a very popular toy he accidentally invented. Apparently, the world didn’t want any more male biography picture books at that time.

While revising a picture book is no small feat, revising a novel always felt like an even bigger feat. Most of my revisions were inspired by my amazing critique group and the feedback they offered me month after month. Other revisions came after carefully processing the information from multiple writing workshops, conferences, and retreats I attended.

Today, I share with you three books about editing and revision that have helped thousands of writers move forward in the writing process. Because your story deserves more than just a proofread and a polish. You’ve got to strengthen your story to make it the best that it can possibly be. And that only comes from revising it.

Intuitive Editing by Tiffany Yates Martin

It’s hard to look at your own writing objectively. If your goal is to create a tight, polished, publishable story—self-editing is a skill you need to learn. Intuitie Editing: A Creative and Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing was published in 2020. With 280 5-star reviews on Amazon and 5 fabulous testimonials on the blurb section, you can’t go wrong with this pick!

Intuitive Editing will lead you to deepen and elevate your own work, while developing your editing skills. Martin teaches you how to solicit and process feedback. She helps you discover what works for your story and your style—to find the best version of your own book vision, whether you’re writing fiction, narrative nonfiction, or memoir. This book will give you the tools you need to approach editing and revising your own writing filled with inspiration, motivation, and confidence.

The book is divided into four different parts. Every chapter is filled with lots of examples and includes two main sections: How to Find It, and How to Fix It. Probably the best part about the book is her extensive list of probing questions to help you think more deeply about your book. The very same types of questions she asks her clients.

Troubleshooting Your Novel by Steven James

Steven James is an award-winning author. This book, Troubleshooting Your Novel, was published in 2016 and won the 2018 Storytelling World Award. This book was written to help you revise your novel after you have completed the first draft. The subtitle reads: Essential Techniques for Identifying and Solving Manuscript Problems. And EVERY manuscript has problems in the first draft.

This book spends a great deal of time focusing on plot and character, as well as other story elements such as dialogue, suspense, voice, subtext, and flow. James helps you fulfill reader expectations and become a writer that readers can trust. He helps you check your manuscript for problems with context and continuity.

The book is broken down into 5 parts and includes a total of 80 chapters.

  • Part I: Story Progression 
  • Part II: Characterization 
  • Part III: Narrative Techniques 
  • Part IV: Reader Engagement 
  • Part V: Style and Finesse

Each short 3-4 page chapter includes an overview, how to fix the issues of that particular element, a question with a quick fix, and a list of tips to fine-tune your manuscript. Chapter 50 includes a great chart of 9 dialogue problems and how to fix them. This is a great book published by Writer’s Digest Books. I highly recommend it!

The Last Draft: A Novelist’s Guide to Revision by Sandra Scofield

According to the Amazon description, The Last Draft: A Novelist’s Guide to Revision by Sandra Scofield is the “definitive handbook for the novelist who is ready to revise.” That’s all of us, right? Once you get your first draft written, get this book to help you turn your manuscript into the novel of your dreams.

Sandra Scofield is an award-winning novelist, a longtime teacher, and a critic. She shows you how to reread a work of fiction with a new view of the subject and vision in mind. You’ll learn how to take things apart and put them back together stronger and deeper.

The book, published in 2017 published by Penguin Random House, includes an overview of “the novel” and explains helpful literary concepts like narrative structure, character agency, and core scenes, using plenty of examples from both classic and contemporary writers.

Scofield outlines her stages of revision and goes deep into each.

  1. A Close Look 
    • Description Assessment 
  2. The Plan 
    • Summaries 
    • Core Scenes 
    • Lines of Threads 
  3. The Process 
  4. The Polish

Lastly, the book includes some wonderful additional resources including Recommended Books on Craft, Lessons from Model Novels, Sample Scenarios, Storyboarding, and a Scene Template. The Last Draft is for both beginning and advanced writers. It provides a detailed, step-by-step plan with invaluable advice to guide you through the emotional and intellectual journey of being a novelist.


What’s the most number of times you’ve revised a single manuscript? Share in the comments!

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