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How To Do A One-Pass Manuscript Revision

by Jennifer on December 10, 2009

By Jennifer Blanchard

Now that NaNoWriMo is over and those of you who attempted it have recovered and caught up with sleep, it’s time to think about what you’re going to do with that 50,000-word manuscript you just finished.

There are several things you can do, including:

  • Set it aside and give it a couple months to rest.
  • Go back and re-read it all the way through.
  • Delete it or toss it in the trash.
  • Put it in a folder on your computer and never think of it again.
  • Start revisions.
  • A combination of the above.
  • None of the above.

If you’re a writer who finished a NaNoWriMo novel and are interested in revising it, it’s time to introduce you to the one-pass novel revision process.

This process was created by writer Holly Lisle who has written 32 books and is working on more.

This is the process she uses to revise her manuscripts. (It’s also the process she teaches you how to do step-by-step in her How To Revise Your Novel course, which opens to the public on January 2.)

I used her process when I was revising the first novel I wrote. I found it to be very effective in helping me determine what was important to the story and what needed to be cut.

I highly recommend Lisle’s process.

To follow Lisle’s process, you’ll need the following:

  • A printed-out copy of your manuscript, double-spaced and with no less than an inch-and-a-quarter margin all the way around.
  • A new single-subject spiral-bound notebook.
  • Pens–several, in different colors.
  • Your novel-planning notes and all the notes you took prior and while writing your novel.

The next step is to set a revision date. When do you want to have your revision finished by? Be realistic, but give yourself a deadline. Having a deadline in mind will help you stay accountable to yourself.

Finally, you’ll sit down with your novel draft and all the supplies I listed above and answer all the questions Lisle mentions in the article.

Give it a try. You may really like her process.

Have you ever attempted Lisle’s one-pass revision process? Please share your thoughts. And if you haven’t, give it a try and let me know what you think.

And if you want help working through Lisle’s process, be sure to register for How To Revise Your Novel when it debuts on January 2.


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brittany December 10, 2009 at 7:56 pm

I’ve read the article before and I really want to try it, but so far I haven’t had a novel to revise. My first novel is terrible and beyond revision and rewriting. I’ve been working on a second novel by myself, and I set it aside to do NaNo. I still have to finish my NaNo novel.

I like the method because it starts with the big things first and then gets smaller. I’m definitely going to try it when I finish my NaNo novel.

2 jblan December 11, 2009 at 11:06 am

@Brittany I agree. Holly’s method works really well because it allows you to focus on the main issues your manuscript is having before you dig down into the nitty-gritty stuff. Good luck finishing your novels!

3 Rabia December 12, 2009 at 8:47 pm

I think Holly’s method does a fantastic job of making you look at the big problems in your story (it’s too easy to get bogged down tinkering with sentences and making cosmetic changes). Handwriting my revision on my ms, though, does not work for me. My brain rebels against the thought of typing in all those handwritten changes.

4 Jesse July 20, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Holly Lisle is amazing, she helps loads with her articles.

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