Revision Tips for the Do-It-Yourselfer

Sunday, June 29, 2014
Photo via Daniel R. Blume on Flickr
I don’t know about you, but my home decorating style is pretty low-frills. I watch a lot of HGTV, and I eagerly anticipate the decorating “reveal” when a house comes together at the end of shows such as “Property Brothers.” I sit on my couch and wish I had a great eye for design and a budget that would allow me to indulge it, but at this point in my life, I haven’t changed out the furniture, throw pillows or wall art in my living spaces in quite a few years. And when I really think about it, I often have the same attitude when it comes to revising my writing pieces.

When we first moved into this house 11 years ago, the walls and linoleum were all white, the carpet beige, and we had several rooms that didn’t even have furniture in them. Over time, after agonizing over paint swatches, we slowly started painting the walls, buying new furniture and changing out the bedding and curtains. There were times when a certain paint color dried on the walls and it looked nothing like we envisioned it would. Much to my husband’s dismay, we had to repaint the entire kitchen and living room when the sunny yellow I picked out had more of a sickly greenish-yellow sheen than we wanted. This past fall, we finally got serious about redecorating and remodeling. We ripped up the carpet and linoleum in living room and kitchen and replaced it with wood floors. We gave the kitchen a much-needed facelift and replaced the countertops, backsplash, light fixtures, and brought in new stainless-steel appliances. We now have three different stripes of paint on the walls as we decide on a new, fresh, more neutral paint color.

At the same time, the YA novel I’ve been working on for the past few years is also getting the facelift it needs. While there have been months when I've let the latest draft of the book collect dust on my desk, with the help of editing and critique partners, the latest version is getting more and more polished by the day. I’ve finally (I think!) whipped the opening pages into shape; cutting sections that provided unnecessary back story and adding more tension and character interiority to the first chapters. I’ve tightened up my sentences, added more action verbs and made sure the character’s voice is appropriately aged. Similar to the way I’m preparing to purchase new placemats for my kitchen table, wall art for the fireplace mantle and throw pillows for my couch, I now have ideas for a few extra embellishments to add to my manuscript, such as new scenes that will add an extra layer of depth to the story.

While the new paint color goes up on the walls and the perfect accent pieces find their new place in my home, it is my hope that rejuvenation will also grace the pages of my novel. Sometimes, all it takes is a change of scenery to gain new perspective.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also dreams of writing middle-grade and YA novels for children—she’s currently working on one of each. She is also a blog tour manager for WOW! Women on Writing and is seeking bloggers to host author and journalist Lorraine Ash and her spiritual memoir, Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life. The tour begins in August. Please e-mail her at for more information.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Good luck with your YA. Would you be interested in hooking up (online) with some writers who are also working on YA novels (although they might not be as far along with their projects as you are)?

If you are interested, Renee, let me know. They're both writers in my critique group and are phenomenal writers. (However, all three of you might be too busy to even exchange an email. ;)

Margo Dill said...

I'm glad to hear that you are working on your YA! It is a great idea and has an important message for kids and adults. I recently started doing this and I think it helps me when I revise. I learned it at a conference. I am writing my two-sentence hook/pitch. And then Sally Apokedak talked about it in her class I just took too. Somehow it helps you stay focused when you are writing. SO it's like the two sentences you would say to an agent/editor when pitching. Like for CBTC, I should have probably said something like: A 17-year-old pretty, quirky orphan thinks her only problem is her boyfriend that pressures her to have sex. But when her uncle goes into a coma because of a bratwurst at a Cubs game, she soon learns that her family is cursed and full of secrets, and she may be the only one who can break them. (Something like this. .. ) Anyway, just a thought.

Renee Roberson said...

@Sioux--Sure! Send me their e-mail addresses and even if we could help each other out with the first few chapters, that would be great.
@Margo--Funny you should mention the hook/pitch because I'm working on that and my one-page synopsis for the SCBWI Conference this week. Ugh! When you've written an entire book, why is it always so hard to get it down to two sentences?

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