Steps to Revising Your Manuscript

Posted by on Feb 2, 2015 in Divas on Writing | 0 comments

Steps to Revising Your Manuscript

Divas on Writing: Steps to Revising your Manuscript


So you have had your manuscript edited. What was returned to you looked like a mix between Greek and hieroglyphics. Where in the world do you begin? Do you just jump in? Do you handle the small stuff first? Do you clear the underbrush so you can see the big picture?

Well, there are a lot of ways to revise and I’m sure everyone has a favorite way, but I’m going to share mine with you. I don’t know about you, but I hate doing work needlessly. For this reason and this reason alone I recommend that you sweat the big stuff first. There is no need to waste time making revisions to a section of your manuscript that is going to be deleted or rewritten. Spending time on such a thing is just frustrating in the end. I recommend instead that you read through the comments on your manuscript and identify those large areas that need revision (if you editor hasn’t marked them out for you). Then focus your edits in those areas. Once you are done it’s time to move on to the smaller stuff.

To help you, I’ve listed the areas you should edit first from most important to least. Have fun!

Step One:

If you editor is recommending deleting chunks of the manuscript. Make a decision on what you will keep and what you will delete first.

Note on deletion: I recommend that you create a document to hold all content that you delete. You never know where it can be reincorporated into the story.

  • Extraneous backstory
  • Info-dumps
  • Unnecessary flashbacks
  • Unnecessary content: chapters, scenes, prologues, epilogues, etc.
  • Over-description
  • Extraneous characters

Step Two:

If your editor is recommending that chunks of manuscript be moved to another place in the manuscript, do this next.

  • Elements that are introduced too soon or late
  • Scenes that are in the wrong place
  • Elements that are in the wrong place: chapters, scenes, etc.

Step Three:

If your editor is recommending that chunks of the manuscript be rewritten, added to or revised in some other manner, this will be your next step.

  • Issues with narrative
  • Issues with tone
  • Issues with pacing
  • Issues with characterization
  • Issues with plot
  • Showing when you should tell
  • Telling when you should show
  • Expansion of scenes, plot, etc.
  • Issues with lack of description
  • Timeline
  • Thesis statement writing

Step Four:

Finally, making any small changes that are left.

  • Word choice
  • Syntax
  • Phrasing
  • Wordiness
  • Redundancy
  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Flow: sentences, paragraphs, etc.


Step Five:

After you have finished making revisions, read your manuscript.

When making heavy revisions, you must read the manuscript again. You must, you must, you must! Sweeping revisions can cause issues with grammar, punctuation, spelling, formatting, characterization, plot consistency, rough scene transitions, tone of the writing, timeline, continuity of the scenes, and the like. These are issues that can be inserted into the story unintentionally during the revision process. The only way to catch these issues is to read your manuscript after you have finished revising. This step is especially important if you are only having a proofread after your main edit. The purpose of a proofread is to catch errors with punctuation and formatting—not substantive issues.


If your manuscript is full of issues that necessitate major rewriting throughout the entirety of the story, we recommend that instead of piecemeal revision that you just redraft your story.

Yes, I realize that the suggestion above is full of suck, but mull it over a bit. Redrafting might just be less work than trying to fit rewritten sections into your story like puzzle pieces. Revision takes work. If you think it doesn’t, you might want to find a different career. Sometimes, your editor is going to ask you to make revisions on a scale that will leave you in tears. But if you believe in the story, if you care about your characters and your readers, you are going to do whatever it takes and it’s that simple.

Really, it is.

Okay, back to writing, or revising if that be the case. Good luck! :)

Shay Goodman (95 Posts)

Shay Goodman is a self-proclaimed maven of mayhem and editing goddess. She has over twelve years of experience in the publishing industry and has worked as a copy editor, proofreader, and a developmental and content editor. She spent several years gainfully employed as a managing editor and director of acquisitions for a small independent press until deciding it was time to strike out on her own once again. Shay has worked with both international and New York Times best-selling authors, most notably: Suzy Duffy and E.L. James. She is proudly a founding member of Write Divas.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: