Any Fiddlers Out There?

No, I don’t mean the musical kind, I mean the cannot-leave-this-para-alone-and-move-on kind.

Seriously, this is so me—I’m like the poster child for fiddling. I can start revising a first draft and boom, look up two hours later to see I’m still on the first page. *screams*

I swear, some days I long for the past when I knew squat about good writing and thought revision had more to do about sentence structure, grammar and spelling than it does plot, voice, style or character development. You remember those days, don’t you? The good times. We’d pelt out a first draft and KNOW it was pure brilliance.

Now I know why ‘crap’ and ‘scrap’ are only one letter apart.

When I revise, I look at each line I’ve written and squeeze as much blood out of it that I can before moving on: Do I feel the voice? Is the description clear, relevant and unique? Is the plot furthered, am I adhering to the character arc? In other words, did I get as much bang for my buck with this line, or can I do better? Usually the answer is, yes, you can do better–keep trying, moron.

For me, this makes revision s-l-o-w. Think…glacial.

Now I made a deal with Becca this week—she would unhook her Playstation IV and write 4 days this week, and I would get my draft of In Between to her so she can take out her withdrawal rages on it. And…it’s Thursday, people! Thursday!

Tick. Tick. Tick.

I know this isn’t life and death here. Becca’s not going to beat me with a rubber hose, or strike my name from her crit partner list for exposing her to a little bad writing (trust me, she’s seen it before). It’s just for macro feedback, but still, I’d like her to be able to read it and not want to claw her eyes out.

I’ve decided to try the speed dating technique. I’m going to time myself, and give each chapter 10 minutes of love before moving on. Because it’s so early on in my MS’s transformation, I need something that forces me to not get bogged down on the nitty gritty stuff. I’ll let you know how it goes, but in the meantime, what are your revision techniques? Do you go chapter by chapter looking for all the elements, or do you take one element at a time and go through the MS? I’d love to hear what works for you!


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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Angela Ackerman
10 years ago

I think it has helped to have a time limit, but I still go over. 🙁

10 years ago

What are you talking about?! I *NEVER* spend more than 10 minutes revising a single word!

-shoves thesaurus in a corner-


Anyhoot, great plan with the speed-dating. Let us know how it works out 🙂

Also, thanks for the elemental idea. Forces you to focus on one thing during a revision brush and leave the rest for another run.

Now to try all of this for myself…

12 years ago

By Susan–

“Boy, am I slow. I read “she must unhook her Playstation IV and…” and I was like There’s a Playstation FOUR?”

You are not alone. But I’m so behind on technology that it didn’t even register with me that there wasn’t a PS4. Eh.

I’m actually not a fiddler but I’ve never edited a novel MS. For short stories, I edit, rewrite, letit sit and repeat that process until it’s done. I don’t know how that’ll work with a novel but I’ll try the same approach (I’ve actually edited a portion of my friend’s novel the same way and she said it helped her).

12 years ago

You said, “Now I know why ‘crap’ and ‘scrap’ are only one letter apart.”

ROFL!!!! Thanks for the quote of the year!!


12 years ago

Let me know how the speed dating goes for you. I’m revising a piece after a month away and it isn’t prretty. I spent three hours trying to get chapter 1 reworked and I’m still not happy with it, not even happy enough to share with my beta-readers 🙁

But, if that works, I may try it on a later draft.

12 years ago

When I was at school I always got in trouble for pulling my face whenever a teacher said the word ‘revision’. I still hate it!

Catherine J Gardner
12 years ago

10 minutes for each chapter – you’re never going to be able to do it. LOL! I don’t think we are ever done revising.

Cate 🙂

12 years ago

YES. I am totally a fiddler.
This posts comforts me more than I can articulate! Oh, fiddling.
Good luck with the speed dating tactic. I do rolling revisions–I revise as I write. By the time I am done a book, I do not want to look at it anymore!

12 years ago

Unhinged, I on the other hand hate to revise, edit and rewrite. Unless it’s someone elses work–then I just gotta put my boot prints alllll over it.

And LOL, Susan! I didn’t even think about that when I posted. *snorts*

12 years ago

Yes, I thought Becca’s advice was good, too. I meant to say so in my response, but I was in the no, don’t edit, don’t rewrite mode. So you see where that got me.

It’s a curse.

12 years ago

LOL! I”ll stick with my ancient PS2, thank you. And Unhinged, I love to edit, too–much more than I love to draft, sadly.

12 years ago

Good advice, Becca. I think doing a single chapter per day is a way to make manageable goals while still leaving enough time to really get a good revision sweep. You so smert!

Susan Sandmore
12 years ago

Boy, am I slow. I read “she must unhook her Playstation IV and…” and I was like There’s a Playstation FOUR?

12 years ago

I love to edit. To rewrite. I always have. When I was a wee thing (before computers, when I used to handwrite on college-ruled notebook paper), I used to pick up where I left off in the story by rewriting the last page. Not did I feel (right or wrong) that I made the page better, it got me right back into the story.

Now if I could only finish a blasted story…

12 years ago

It’s never as bad as you think. And by ‘you’, I mean ‘you’ specifically, not the generic everyone-in-the-world ‘you’, though that’s probably true, too.

As for me, I made a checklist based on Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (ie, the Bible) that I use for each chapter. I can usually see at the beginning of a story which revision elements I can cut from my list and which ones I need definite work on. Then I make a bunch of sweeps of each chapter. Sweep 1: Show/Tell and exposition. 2: dialogue. 3: little goofy stuff (sentences starting ‘as’, repetitive and unnecessary words, cliches, passivity). 4: big picture stuff: characterization, proportion, voice. I work on only one chapter a day. The next day, I move on so I don’t get bogged down. When that first round of revisions is done, I post it for the critique group so I can get feedback before I tackle it again. That’s my shtick.

And for the record, the Playstation hasn’t been unplugged. Just…rationed. 😉