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. Mel Avatar

    I’d love a revision course. I’m not yet done with my novel but for its future it would be really great! ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Maybe it’ll also help me to stop to “correct” the sentences over and over again while writing – which slows me down like hell. After all, that is what a revision is for. So I’m hoping it would help me in both these aspects.

    cheers, Mel

  2. jonathan allen Avatar
    jonathan allen

    been working on my novel for two years now. am in the dreaded editing stage. or revising, however you want to call it….

  3. Sylvia Avatar

    Yes, double yes! I do want to use the one-pass revision process, but I think it takes more experience to use it.

  4. sharper Avatar

    Yes, I would be very interested. I have several first drafts sitting around because I don’t know what to do with them next.

  5. Janine Avatar

    Absolutely! I would love to learn how you revised your early novels, especially since they were, after all, the catalysts to where you are now. I think it’s very important.

  6. Scarey Avatar

    Yes, i would be most interested.

    Thank you,

  7. Diane McKinley Avatar
    Diane McKinley

    Thats a course I need. I tend to keep too much, don’t we all?
    Thanks and good luck.

  8. Stephanie Avatar

    I would definitely be interested in a revision course, but as I’m fairly broke, I wouldn’t be able to spend a lot, and as I participate in NaNoWriMo every year, I would prefer something that’s a month long. I find that over a month my attention begins to wander. I have a novel from three years ago NaNo that I wrote over 50,000 words, but didn’t finish the climax or denouement…and I still haven’t! ๐Ÿ™

    So I’m voting for no more than a month on the revision course.

    1. Holly Avatar

      What I have to teach will simply take more than a month. I’m currently looking at about four. I think I can do it in sixteen lessons, though bleed-over from questions has me currently with roughs for eighteen.

      How long the course goes is not a voting thing. As I noted elsewhere, the process is the process. Once you learn it, you can do it in a month or so on a normal-sized novel. Learning to do it is what takes the time.

      But novel-writing is not a great career choice if you want to do something that only takes a month.

  9. LisaM Avatar

    Hi Holly, yes, I would be very interested in learning more about how to revise my first drafts. I was thinking exactly the same thing as your daughter about the One Pass Revision – how it seemed to be suited more to an experienced writer 0 although I found the questions in Part One particularly useful and also the idea of a writing notebook.

    I know my first drafts tend to be lacking in scene setting and description (at least that’s one of the main flaws I’ve discovered and I’ve no doubt there are others) and learning the step by step process on how to polish my work would be of great benefit.

    Thanks Holly.

  10. anand prakash Avatar
    anand prakash

    i feel the same as i followed the one-pass revision, so please help us out.

  11. Lori Ford Avatar
    Lori Ford

    I would love a course on this subject. I especially have problems with the middle of the book or story and really have to struggle with cutting out words.

  12. Kelly Avatar

    Yesssssssssssss. I submitted a short story – and the editor loves my voice and my hero, but my conflict is weak. I revised and resubmitted and she said the conflict is still too weak. I need help!

  13. Loni Avatar

    I would love it!! It would help a lot – I get really bogged in my own uncertainty when I hash through things.

  14. TC Dale Avatar
    TC Dale

    I would interested in something like this. Please consider it.

  15. Teresa C Avatar
    Teresa C

    I would be very much interesed in this course

  16. Maggie Avatar


    Yes! Though I know I’m thinking too far ahead, with a whole 10 scenes written, I’m already stressing about the revision process. I can tell if a scene is pushing my plot forward, but how do I know if it’s doing it the best it can? Or if something else entirely would work best?

    Loving your course,

  17. Nicole Avatar

    Yes, sounds like just what I need!

  18. Larry Bird Avatar
    Larry Bird

    After four years writing a 100k word trilogy, and then investing two more years editing it, I’ve determined that writing is significantly easier [for me] than editing. Editing out the chaff (without losing the soul of the story or eviscerating the characters) seems more like weeding a planter than creating an oriental garden. I’d love to see a method that doesn’t make me want to fall asleep rather than face the sheer drudgery of the task.

  19. marti Avatar

    Would love to see he revisions process.

  20. Mark Avatar

    I think I spend more time revising than I do writing. I can’t start a new session without first rewriting everything I wrote the last session. So, yes, I would be very interested in this course.

  21. Joan Reeves Avatar

    I’m always interested in seeing another way. There’s got to be a better way than I do it which seems never-ending.

  22. Damon-Eugene Rich Avatar

    I have a couple of novels, one was my undergrad novel in progres, and one was a NanoWrimo. And I’m soon to do Nano in November. But I find that its hard and useless to revise as i’m not really noveling done, i’m fixing grammar, sentence structure. All maddening when you want to develop the rest. A step by step would be wonderfull.

  23. Megan Avatar

    I would be very interested to see a method that shows a logical way of assessing the novel currently and how to improve it… It always seems that when we get rejections, everyone wants something different done to it. How do we know what is good, what could make it better, and what is just a shot in the dark?

  24. Jane Avatar

    I’d be really interested in the course but since I also have a job, I’m more interested in a once a month or once every two weeks meeting. It’s impossible for me to keep up with a weekly deadline, I have deadlines and emergencies in my work work that are more easy to work around on a 2 week or monthly basis than every week.
    I am revising a novel right now and I find it hard – do I plod through it, just making notes when I revise something that changes the begining or do I go back or do I …..

  25. sue reid Avatar
    sue reid

    i am revising a NanNo novel (well rewritten it and now revising it) and it is defeating me ๐Ÿ˜‰ any help would be appreciated – especially in small chunks

  26. Winston Ash Avatar
    Winston Ash

    Please! I struggle to remember what I’ve written in orevious scens, and repeat myself, and, tend to disclose facts that should only be revealed in later scense.

  27. Gloria Avatar

    Yes, I think I should benifit, learn much from such a course.

  28. Susan Avatar

    Yes! Count me in. I’d love to know more about revision. I have a couple in the works of polishing using a critique group, but if I could handle some of it on my own – yea! Let me know if it comes to fruition.

  29. Kevin McLaughlin Avatar
    Kevin McLaughlin

    Yes, I could see this being valuable. I finished a NANO novel last year, and put it aside for a bit. Read it again – and it didn’t suck. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Actually sat up til about 2am re-reading my own novel, which seemed like a good sign.

    I’d love to get some more direction on revision; I feel like I actually have the decent groundwork of a publishable product here, but need to get it polished first.

  30. Natalie L. Avatar
    Natalie L.

    I’m currently writing my first novel and I am a pretty good way through it, I love all your other courses and would absolutely love it if you did a course on revision!!!!

  31. Krista Avatar

    Definitely! I like the one-pass revision for short stories (especially the longer ones) but I’m revising my first novel now and feeling overwhelmed.

  32. Rachel Hux Avatar
    Rachel Hux

    I would be interested in the course

  33. Marcia Avatar

    As someone who regularly participates in NaNo and wants to be where you are in a couple of years :-), I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to have a course like this that could help me through the painful editing process (especially since I had an English teacher tell me never to edit my own work because my “inner critic” is way too harsh).

  34. Christa Holland Avatar

    Yes, yes! Most definitely yes! : )

  35. JWRR Avatar

    I say go for it! like others have said its not as easy to get info on revision and i would definately be interested in a course because while i have many ideas about how to write my current (and first) novel i have no idea about how i would revise it without changing almost everything or almost nothing.

  36. Sandy Jensen Avatar

    I think novel revision is an unexploited market niche. I’m trying to think of the competition, and nothing is coming to me; therefore, it is a great idea assuming you can balance the equations of time and money…

  37. driftsmoke Avatar

    I’d be very interested in a course on revision. I loathe revisions. They seem endless, and the result barely seems worth the trouble. I’m trying to figure out how to do this more effectively on my own, but, most of the time, I’m just splashing around, not swimming, not getting anywhere.

    On Twitter, you asked about problems we’ve had in revision. Here goes:

    For the novel I wrote in HTTS, I tried using the one-pass revision method. There was just so much wrong with the HTTS novel that one-pass wasn’t enough.

    I think some of it is what you said, Holly. The current one-pass method uses your years of experience in analyzing and knowing what is and isn’t wrong and what does and doesn’t need fixing. I think I wasn’t experienced enough to get the most of it.

    I did the mark up of the printed novel as you suggested. I got wrapped up in making grammar and style changes and didn’t really focus on the plot or characters Then, when I tried to go back for another read-through, I found it was very difficult to read for new problems because there was so much red. Additionally, it was impossible to tell what my changes would and wouldn’t fix. By that point, I was so overwhelmed, my brain was like oatmeal.

    Then, when I started making my corrections in my document on my computer, I was all “yi, yi, yi.” I was reading this story that had too many characters, too many plot holes, you name it. I ended up not even using the red marks I’d made and just went through the novel and fixed what I could.

    Some of what killed me is that I was trying to do grammar, voice, characters, and plot all at one time.

    Looking back, I think I should have done one read-through for story, another for character, and a last one for dressing up my words.

    Or maybe not.

    In the end, I was just tired, frustrated, and overwhelmed. I ended up doing a slap-dash job, and, of course, it sucked.

    Hope this helps.

  38. Marisa_Gittinger Avatar


    I just finished my third novel but have yet to do any revision on any of them because I want to wait until I think I’ll have the necessary space to work and not be so close to the story. Though I plan to follow your One-Pass Revisions, I would love to have a more detailed way of revising.

  39. Misti Avatar

    I need all the help I can get with revision. Getting the first draft done is one thing I’ve finally gotten past. Getting it all nice and shiny…quite another.

  40. ron bruce Avatar
    ron bruce

    Please go for it, Holly.

  41. Mark Avatar

    I would be interested in this. I have enjoyed the Thinking Sideways course and I think that this sort of post-completion training would be very valuable.

  42. Stephanie S Avatar

    I would definitely be interested in the course.

  43. Hoarmurath Avatar



  44. Alan Hembra Avatar
    Alan Hembra

    Yes Please do this! I’ve been revising my 1st novel for 7 months and I’m still not sure I’m doing it right. It sure was easier to write the draft that’s for sure. I find myself sweating over tossing a character or not, scenes, etc.

  45. Anthea Avatar

    I have yet to finish a novel, but I’m working through How to Think Sideways and very hopeful that this time I’ll get there. I know it’s going to need a LOT of revision, so I’d definitely be interested in this course.


  46. Snitchcat Avatar

    I say go for it. It sounds like it’ll be a great course, and as a further enhancement, it could be linked to the One-Pass method as a two-part thing:

    Part 1: an initial method that would help those new to revising novels (charged or free).

    Part 2: the One-Pass method for those more experienced at revising novels (keep as free, since that’s always been its offering status).

  47. Ramanlal Morarjee Avatar

    I have just finished writing my first novel after three and half years. My blog gives details of the story.
    Yes, I would love to see instuctions on revision.

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