Do you need to know more about how to revise your novel?

My daughter took Think Sideways. Wrote her first novel. Is working on revising it now.

And she said, “You know, I sort of get the One-Pass Revision, but I wish you had something a lot more in-depth for people who still aren’t sure which parts of what they’ve written are good, and which parts need to go. I want to have the whole thing broken down into tiny steps.”

Other people have said the same thing.

The One-Pass Revision is the way I revise my novels now. But now, I know how to look at characters, decide which need to stay and which need to go, and which need to be folded into other characters. I know where my writing was good and where it was bad. I can spot failed plotlines. I can identify the holes where description, conflict, and backstory should go.

When I was just getting started, my revision process was equally grueling, but different. I didn’t know the things I know now, so my process didn’t take anything for granted.

I still remember how I revised back then, and I wouldn’t mind teaching that method.

I’m just not sure how many people would actually want to spend three or four months doing a really intensive revision on their novels.

If this is something that would interest you, post here and let me know.

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364 responses to “Do you need to know more about how to revise your novel?”

  1. Don Avatar

    Count me in I’m pondering signing up for your course I heard on Mir L pod cast. I’ve attended several writer work shops, but I feel it’s time to do some stuff on my own at home, counting this one I will have three novels, one will need to have the last quarter heavily rewritten, the second is in rough draft and there is this one. The second I am planning on rewriting after the rough draft of this one is finished.
    After the second is rewritten it’s time to pull the trigger in 2010 and do something. Oh yeah a good day 886 the cutting is over full steam ahead.

  2. Rob Avatar

    That would be a “yes” from me, too. πŸ™‚

  3. Lacey Savage Avatar

    I’d be extremely interested in this, Holly. I struggle with revision more than I struggle with anything else. Getting words is easy. Knowing when to let go of the words I’ve got nearly kills me every time.

  4. Sarah Avatar

    I had the same problem with One-Pass Revision. I used it on my first novel, and there was so much wrong with my first novel I only had four or five pages in the whole thing that were unmarked. I think One-Pass probably works really well for people whose biggest problems are spelling errors, dropping threads, and having night fall three times in one day, big my problems tend to be more global and shifty. Like, all the narration is clunky and the FMC being too much of a damsel in distress. Those kinds of things are really hard to fix via One-Pass.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents. I still use a system very similar to One-Pass, but it involves a second pass where I go through and change all the weird phrases that make me cringe. I don’t know what that is. Two-Pass, maybe?

  5. Kyralae Avatar

    Oh yes, please! I’ve read over the One Pass Revision in the course but I know I won’t write at the level where that will be usable. I’m working on a first novel ever and thanks to you and your course I’ve gotten past the world building to actually writing. It’s been a tough journey to write and not go back and edit as I go so I end up going nowhere. I would greatly appreciate a more in-depth process till I write well enough for the One Pass to work.

    Thank you for all your work and sharing.

  6. Brian Cansler Avatar

    Is it possible for you to do an in-depth course on WHAT to look for and HOW to change it in the One-Pass Revision? That is, continue teaching only the One-Pass Revision method, but teach what and how to do what needs to be done in a very detailed manner.

    I’m not sure if it’s possible, because I don’t know if “what” and “how” can be put into nice, compact little lessons. If so, it seems like it could be a workable plan.

  7. Merc Avatar

    I’m definitely interested in this.

  8. Bonne Friesen Avatar

    Yes, please! I love the one-pass idea. My college writing teacher took 6 years of revisions between novels, and that can’t be right. I don’t want to get caught in paralysed perfection, but I want to be proud of my work too. Thank you for considering this.

  9. Erin Kendall Avatar

    That was supposed to be NOT so sure on some parts.

    Erin K.

  10. Erin Kendall Avatar

    Yes, count me in!

    I’ve been struggling with the revision of my main WIP, and I used your One Pass method, but ended up doing 5 passes. It’s improved alot, but now I’m so sure on some parts.

    Erin K.

  11. Nancy Avatar

    That would be fantastic! I’d sign up in a heartbeat.

  12. naomi Avatar

    I would love more information on revisions. I’m one of those people who revises to death because I’m not sure what should be cut and what should stay. I think your daughter’s idea is a great one!

  13. Brad Parks Avatar

    Yes, oh yes, oh yes! I am in the midst of following your one-pass method with my first novel, and any more depth and insight into that process I can get would be very useful!

  14. Lindsay Avatar

    I’m totally interested, even though I’m not near the revision stage. But if you do decide to creat this more intensive course, I’ll be glad to use it once I finish my rough draft! πŸ™‚

    I think it’s awesome that your daughter is writing a novel too!

  15. Diana Cacy Hawkins Avatar

    I am a fast worker, even at revisions, but it’s probably my weakest area. Great on other writer’s material, crappy on my own. Your individual courses have helped tremendously with this, but to see it laid out in one continuous course sequence would help a lot.

  16. Anne Lyle Avatar

    Yes, please! I’m currently making it up as I go along, just like you did – I’ve read One-Pass Revision, but my current train-wreck of a manuscript needs more than that, I think πŸ™‚

  17. Soleil Noir Avatar

    Definitely interested, as I was thinking the same thing during HTTS.

  18. Pat Avatar

    Please. I’m begging you.

    Editing is enough to make me want to quit writing — I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m good at proofreading, removing the adverbs and “was”, but I know it’s so much more than that. I have one novel I’ve been editing for three years now, and I can’t even figure out where the beginning is.


  19. PolarBear Avatar

    Both hands waving wildly and jumping up and down while yelling, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

  20. EJ Avatar

    I’d love to do a complete revision in 3-4 months. Mine are long, brutal battles which would get done faster if I didn’t dread them so much and procrastinate. Seriously, my current revision is on a WIP I finished over a year ago.

  21. Stormlyht Avatar

    Are you KIDDING me? Another way of looking at things? An in depth study of whether or not something is worth keeping? That’s worth it’s weight in gold! I wrote a novel during NaNoWriMo in 2007, left it for a year before picking it up to start working on it, began the one pass revision, cut out at least 10k words because I needed to change POV on it, and have spent since January of this year editing it. I’ve added 3 chapters at the beginning of the novel and am just on the revisions of chapter 7 right now. I’ve spent so many months working on this thing that I think is going to be really wonderful when I’m done, I’ve been very pleased with how things have changed on it, but there’s still problems. I sit and stare at little scenes and scratch my head and think, “Is this important to the plot? Should I keep this or ditch it? Will I lose anything that I HAVE to have if I toss it out?” and whether or not I keep it I wonder if I’ve done the right thing. I would LOVE to have more help on the revision process. Everything I’ve gotten from you, and I’ve gotten and read A LOT of stuff from you – Go HtTS!, has been incredibly helpful and I would always find room for more information. Anything from a known author that I’ve grown to trust is appreciated.

  22. Dawn K. Avatar
    Dawn K.

    I would love to see it Holly. I gave up one pass revision on my first novel because as I did it I seemed to only make more problems not less. I have two books waiting for revision and I’m working on my third, so revision is certainly a stalling point.

  23. Lisa R Avatar
    Lisa R

    I am very interested in this. Of course, I still have to finish writing my first novel:-)

  24. Faith Avatar

    Heck, yes. I’m trying to revise/edit 2 WIPs, and am practically pulling my hair out at the futility of it. I’d love to learn the RIGHT way to do it, and how to know whether certain things are worth keeping or slashing. 3-4 months sounds like a blessing. I’d do it.

  25. Jessica Avatar

    I don’t know that I could even imagine revision in 3-4 months! I never seem to be able to get past that stage, and in the few stories I did, I didn’t like the changes I ended up with. So a step by step breakdown and knowing what to look for would be a great help!

    Now if only I could afford HtTS!

  26. Elise Avatar

    I would also like more detail on revision. I followed your one-pass guidelines (though this was technically the 3rd time through) for my first novel and although I’ve made some vast improvements, I think there’s still something wrong.

  27. Kerryn Avatar

    I have spent the last 18 months in heavy revisions and rewrites of my WIP. This was helped along significantly by Think Sideways and your One Pass Revision technique (though obviously I haven’t truly applied the One Pass until recently). I would LOVE to learn more about your revision process. Though it would be nice to have a break between revisions. I’m on schedule to finish my WIP by November so something after March next year would be good! πŸ™‚

  28. Larkk Avatar

    Yes, that sounds like a great idea…but I am assuming that it would be best suited for people who had already taken HTTS ?

    1. Holly Avatar


      Actually, no. HTTS would not be a prerequisite course.

      This particular method predates How To Think Sideways, and while students would get a bit of Sideways Thinking thrown into those areas where it would make doing the revision easier, this older method depends only a little on the right brain/left brain synergy I teach in HTTS, but primarily on dissecting the existing novel in logical ways, discovering the flaws using worksheets and a whole lot of left brain work, and then putting the pieces back together.

      I actually thought the biggest beneficiaries of this course would be folks who’d never revised a novel to the point where it got a positive rejection (personal letter from an editor), or folks who had a NaNo novel or three they didn’t know what to do with.

      I’m not planning on doing movies or a lot of extras for this course. I figure I can get the whole process down on paper along with the worksheets in somewhere between 12 and 16 weekly lessons. And I figure the per-month cost will be significantly less than HTTS. For what it’s worth.

      1. Larkk Avatar

        Thanks for clarifying this, it sounds like a great place for me to start! (since I may have the equivalent of a NaNo with an extra helping of 50k words in a bit) In any case, count me in. I’m in this for the long haul πŸ™‚

  29. Ronn Avatar

    I’d be interested. I’ve been putting off my rewrite/revision because I’m not quite sure which parts need to be changed and which parts need to be thrown out.

  30. Inkblot Avatar

    You kidding? This would be AWEsome!! Think Sideways revolutionised the way I write – if you write a course that could do even half that for my ability to revise… Wow. πŸ™‚

  31. Scarlett Avatar

    I probably would be interested. After all the course I am going on in September is for that but it’s only a week and I am still going to need help afterwards

  32. Minze Avatar

    Oh yes, I’d love to read about this. I wouldn’t much care if it took three months or six or ten, as long as it got the job done. There’s so much talk about how “books aren’t written, they’re rewritten”, but there isn’t all that much information out there about how to rewrite. It’s like my Mum felt when her father tried to teach her how to waltz: he was dancing so fast she couldn’t see what he was doing. In the end she taught herself, to a tune set in 4/4. That gave her three beats for dancing and a fourth for pausing to consider her next move. If you had something like that for revisions, that would be brilliant, especially since you’re good at pin-pointing the essential core of a writing step and breaking a task down into manageable steps.

  33. Ieva Avatar

    “I’m just not sure how many people would actually want to spend three or four months doing a really intensive revision on their novels.”

    I will do it anyway. So count me in πŸ™‚

  34. Leah Avatar

    Definitely. I think I have an understanding of revisions, too, but I’m not published yet. I’d love to know what sort of things editors/publishers/myself are/should be looking for.

  35. KQ Avatar

    I would love to hear about it, Holly. This…thing (for lack of a better word) is my first attempt at a novel, and I want to go through the whole process of writing and revision. I should be done by the beginning of September (that was my target), but I might not be. I plan on spending some time away from it (maybe a month-it’s not like someone is waiting on me!), and then start on revisions. I am interested in anything you have on revisions!

  36. djmills Avatar

    “which parts are good, and which parts need to go”
    Exactly my thoughts. We can’t fix what we don’t recognise as wrong. I purchased Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King, but of course, I don’t know if they are good at what they do. I studied it and now look for what they described. However, it does not show if plot highlights are good or bad, if characters are weak or strong, if description is good or boring.
    I am ready to participate and have three novels ready to practice on. But are you ready, Holly. It took a lot of long hours for you to do HtTS.
    Please tell me where to sign up. πŸ™‚ Not that I am pressuring you to do it.

  37. Patricia Babbitt Avatar

    Yes, I would appreciate an experienced, guiding hand in revision of my first novel. Count me in.

  38. Margaret Avatar

    LOL! The real question is how many people don’t already use 3-4 months in novel revision. Seriously, I can do a one-pass in a month, but that’s rarely the only pass and I know I’m faster than many writers I know.

  39. The Pencil Neck Avatar
    The Pencil Neck

    Count me in. I’m in the process of doing a rewrite/revision right now. It’s more of a total rewrite than a revise at this point. πŸ™‚

    1. Eve Avatar

      That’s me too. I’m rewriting the damn thing, but I’m still not sure about some bits.

  40. Elise Avatar

    I can’t imagine it taking LESS than three or four months to revise a novel. Heck, my first novel (now put aside because it needs another go round of revision) has already been revised three times over a period of several years. At least doing it that many times has given me a good idea of what needs to be done to whip a first draft into shape. I have lots of books on revision so, while I’d be interested in how you approach it, it isn’t a burning need with me.

  41. Katfireblade Avatar

    Me, please! Before I edit my novel into the far side of boring!

  42. Mel Avatar

    Also, how cool that your daughter is writing novel(s)! I bet that’s a lot of fun for both of you to share.

  43. Jink Avatar

    Whether it’s three or four months, three or four weeks, or three or four years…. who cares as long as the work gets the attention it deserves and becomes even something better! I would love to see the method.

  44. Mel Avatar

    I very much need more help on revision. I feel it’s only fair to let you know right now that I don’t have course-tuition money (which is totally deserved) to pay for it at the moment, but once I rejoin the ranks of the employed I would pay happily.

  45. Tori Avatar

    I have read about your One Pass Revision and would love to have it all broken down for me in easy steps. One thing I never really grasped was revision, it scared the crap out of me and still does. It would be nice to really know what part of my project is pure crap and what is great.

    I am greatly interested in this!

  46. Brian Cansler Avatar

    I’ve read about your One-Pass Revision, and I definitely think it’s a great method. However, I haven’t actually put it to practice, and I haven’t read the HTTS lesson on it.

    I think it’d be great to learn your full revision method, too. I’m afraid that when it comes down to it, I might not know what to pick out.

  47. Zora Avatar

    I’d be interested, I’m having trouble with my own revisions right now too.

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