Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Writers' Wednesday: Revisions by Kate Hardy

I’ll nail my colours to the mast upfront – I’m a planner, so for me having lists and spreadsheets and the like frees up my creativity rather than boxing me into a corner. I did try ‘writing into the mist’, and it just doesn’t work for me – all I do is play online word games! For me, I like to know where my characters are going and it doesn’t ruin the story for me or make me bored. (In fact, it sometimes helps a lot, because if I get stuck or really need to get words down because my deadline’s getting tight then I can write in ‘dirty draft’ form, which is basically expanding on my outline.)

But where being a planner really comes into its own for me is when it comes to tackling revisions.

How the process normally goes for me is:

  • Revisions letter from editor arrives

  • A few moments of ‘OMG, I am so crap and she hates my book’ authorial panic

  • Eat chocolate to calm self down

  • Read letter properly (with highlighter pen to pick out the important points)

  • Email ed to agree some points, argue case on others, and suggest compromise on others

  • Do something else to keep myself busy while I wait to hear back (preferably not eating chocolate, or the scales will have something to say about it)

  • Ed’s verdict arrives, agreeing/arguing/compromising

… and then I can get cracking on the actual revisions process.

From the first draft, I keep an outline of my book in a simple table format (and update it as I go, because although I’m a planner I’m open to change if my characters tell me something more interesting halfway through). Column one gives the chapter number and where it is in the timespan of the book (eg day 1, day 15, ‘several weeks later’); column two gives a very brief outline of what happens (i.e. plot points).

For revisions, I add a third column to the table, detailing what needs to be cut, what needs to be added, and sometimes what I’m going to move and where.

And then, instead of seeing a four-page letter from my ed and wondering where to start, I have a plan to work to. It’s been broken down into chunks, so it’s manageable. I can tick off the changes as I go and scribble all over my plan as I change things.

Scribble? Yes. At the moment, I do my revisions longhand – which has the added bonuses of stopping me having long email conversations with writer friends and keeping me off the internet :o) I type them up using ‘track changes’, and then print out any new scenes and revise them longhand, too.

Points to think about while I’m revising:

  • Are the characters consistent? Can the reader identify with them/fall for them/understand their motivations?

  • Enough emotional turning points and obstacles?

  • Scenes in the right order? Would it be stronger if I moved them round? Or if I switched viewpoint?

  • Who cares? (Have I gone off on a tangent/let my research show too much? – this one is my particular bad habit!)

And then, when I’m finished, that third column in my table can be cut and pasted as a note to my editor, explaining exactly what I’ve done and where.

How do you tackle revisions?

Kate’s new Modern Romance, A Moment on the Lips, is out in shops right now in the UK (next month in the US), and she’s thrilled that her new, has Vesuvius on the front cover! You can find out more about these books, and Kate, on her website ( and her blog (


  1. Hi Kate
    I do a very similar table to yourself! It means I can keep track of where a change suggested by the Ed can affect other parts of the story or ruin my timeline!
    I find it one of the most useful tools for revisions. I also find it useful for myself as I summarise the purpose of every scene in one sentence, it really brings to my attention when a scene isn't moving the story along - then it gets cut!

  2. Hi Kate. Thanks for your "advice". I've printed it off and it's on the board over my computer. BTW, I'm half way through "A Moment on the Lips" - Caz and Dante are *hot*! ;o) I'm really enjoying their story. Caroline x