Revising a book can be overwhelming so it is important to take it one step at a time, and ideally, you need to revise your book one draft at a time. When you focus on getting each draft better than the one before, you make progress without agonising over every word.
Revising your book can be done in many ways; you may have a style or approach that you like. But if you are getting bogged down in the process you could do worse that use the draft-revise approach. It’s simple, it keeps you moving forward and you feel more in control of your book.
The draft-revise process
The ideal way to get your book finished is to produce a lot of drafts. Focus on one chapter at a time but don’t spend more than about an hour or two at any one time.
- Print out the chapter you are working on. This is important as you will see errors more easily on a print-out.
- Whizz through and mark all the changes you see. Be quick and don’t agonise over anything. You may find that one part of the chapter is easy to get right but another one needs more work. If this is the case, get the easy bit done first.
- Input the changes from your print-out to your screen version and then print it out again. Set aside the old version and put a tick in the corner. Write a note of the date and time in the corner of the page. This is important because it will prevent you from getting different versions muddled up.
- Go through your new version. Again be quick so you don’t get bogged down in detail. The repeated draft-revise process will take care of that. Skim through the part that needs the least work and focus on the more tricky part. Get it 50-60% right. Perfection is not required.
- Again, input the changes onto the electronic copy and print it out again. Mark the old version as before (tick, date and time).
- Repeat three or four times or until you start to feel that you are getting too familiar with the material. When that happens, print out a clean version and set it aside for the next day. Move on to another chapter.
As you can see, this method is very fast and very effective. It keeps you moving forward and it gives you an enormous sense of achievement.
Each time you return to a chapter you have worked on before, you will see fewer and fewer parts you want to change. When you are only making one or two minor alterations on each page, stop. Set aside the book and don’t look at it again or simply send it to an editor or proof-reader to check it over for you.
One cut too many?
One word of warning; beware of cutting your book to shreds. If you are cutting out too many chunks at once hold back. Put the whole book aside for at least 48 hours, preferably longer if you can. Get some space between you and it until your hyper-critical inner reader has quietened down. When you have got some perspective, return and begin to work on it again.
If you are still struggling, either set the book aside again or ask an editor to give you some feedback. Send them a version of the book before you started cutting and ask them to edit it. Seeing an editor’s changes will help you work out if you are being over-critical or if your cuts are justified and fine. Sometimes it’s good to get some reassurance and this is a simple and easy way to get it.
Working through a lot of drafts can significantly ease the angst that can go with revising your book. It is fast and very productive making you far more effective than if you attempted to get each chapter right in one draft. Keep it light, keep it quick and you’ll get your book done with far more ease than you might have imagined.
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