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Saturday, December 04, 2021

Taking on a New Revision Approach (And Not Giving Up)

When I got a fresh round of rejections on a few of my short stories, I asked myself the question - do I really have it in my anymore to submit anymore? I couldn't tell myself that it wasn't just about finding the right fit for my stories. It was more than that. Something was wrong with them. I had to face that fact.

Before I could get any more defeated than I already felt, I got a book to review on my writing blog called Now Write! Fiction edited by Sherrie Ellis. In this book, there are various exercises that inspire you to write, help you think deeply about your characters, and so much more. I flipped to the end about revisions and that changed my whole perspective about the revision process.

In one of the sections (photographed above), one of the authors said that Raymond Carver wrote up to 30 drafts of his short story "Cathedral." And I looked it up and was confirmed that yes, this author was known to complete up to 10 to 30 drafts of a story before considering it done. 

Suddenly, I didn't feel so bad about going back to the drawing board on my stories. In fact, for my stories, I'm sure I didn't get anywhere near the 30 counts of my drafts.

Back to the drawing board I went. I decided to take the approach that I picked up from this section and approached each read of the draft by focusing one element at a time. My first approach was examining my main character and I highlighted all the parts that portrayed the character. I even added to it. So, I then read it for the conflict. And barely found it at all. At least, not as clearly as I thought.

So I dove right back in, examining the conflict I wanted to have shown in the story, making sure it happened earlier, and adding more internal conflict thanks to my stronger character development.

Now my story looks far better than it ever did. I'm not quite at the submission stage yet but I feel better now that I've taken a second look at this story.

It's hard to face rejection and I didn't come to the decision to take my story back to the drawing board lightly. I fought the urge to ditch this story completely and assume I had nothing else to give it but I would have been wrong to do that. Today, if you are struggling with rejections, don't be afraid to take another look at your story. Consider a new approach in your revision process like the approach I took and maybe you'll find in your newest draft, whether it's number 30 or 100.


  1. Nicole--I definitely think it matters how "in love" we are with the piece, or how committed we are to a piece. There are a couple of pieces (one was a "finished" NaNoWriMo (at 50,000 words) that have been buried... and I hope they rest in peace. However, when you truly believe in a piece, you'll do however many revisions necessary to get it all sparkly and pretty.

  2. Great advice Nicole. Revision is a challenge for me. I need to get back to my novel.

  3. Nicole, this sounds like just the book I need! I'm having trouble with the characters in an essay, and even though it's nonfiction, I think using some fiction techniques will help me map out motivations and tension. I'm going to check out Sherri's book.

    Maybe we should all share our #1 favorite writing book? Mine is Consider This by Chuck Palahniuk, also geared towards fiction writers and a fantastic resource.

  4. That sounds like a really good method! I wouldn't think to do separate revisions based on the various elements. I love that you're so dedicated to revising your short stories--I am terrible about doing that myself. I'm either all in on a story and do multiple rounds of revisions, or write it, edit in once, and then forget about it. I'm sure many of my stories hate me, LOL. Good luck and I'd love to check out Sherrie's book and "Consider This."

  5. @Sioux - I definitely agree! I feel like if I really, really love a story, even if that love has faded a bit by my umpteeth revision and rejection, I will feel that pull to return!

    @Beverley - Same! Revision is a huge roadblock for me.

    @Angela - I will have to check that one out! I am so in love with books that provide exercises within that are easy to grab and do. It's a huge draw for me!

    @Renee - it is so hard to keep going back to my stories to be honest! But I really want to see them get picked up so discipline brings me back.


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