Tag Archive for: revision

This past month I hit a wall in my work-in-progress. I really struggled revising the end of a chapter and making it feel ~complete. What I wrote was fine, but it wasn’t really good, and it didn’t do the things a chapter end should do (specifically both wrap up and carry forward). And the whole frustrating experience made me think a lot about when writers should ask for help and what kind of help they should seek.

In general, my advice for writers is that they take a story as far as they can independently before asking for outside feedback and assistance. What that means will vary writer to writer and project to project. Sometimes that might be the end of a second draft, and other times the end of a fourth or fifth draft. Or sometimes it might be the end of one specific chapter that is driving you to drink and perhaps you just desperately need someone who can see the forest instead of every damn tree!


The kind of feedback a writer seeks depends on what they are prepared to do with the story after receiving feedback. Sometimes, like in my chapter, I need someone who can be a genius and help me pinpoint what’s wrong. That’s when I need focused feedback that will lead to a revision. Other times I really am just looking for positive reinforcement. For someone not just to tell me something doesn’t suck, but to say that it’s good (maybe even great).

The latter type of feedback is performed by Cheerleaders, and the former we’ll classify as the work of Problem-Solvers.

Cheerleaders usually come from your friends and family. They’re people who care about your emotional wellbeing more than your writing. They’re not going to lie to you, but they aren’t going to nitpick your grammar either. Cheerleaders are so important during a first draft to encourage you to keep translating your story from thoughts to prose, but they can also be important during revision while you’re crafting that first draft mess into an understandable narrative. Cheerleading support can take the form of an enthusiastic first reader or an accountability partner, or someone else who is generally excited every time you tell them you put words on the page. Cheerleaders help you finish whatever stage of the project you’re on, but they don’t help you make your writing better.

Problem-Solvers can come from your friends and family but should be familiar with your genre and are preferably either well-read or are a writer or editor. They’re going to help you pinpoint weaknesses and problem areas and, hopefully, guide you toward solutions and stronger writing. (Solution guidance is sometimes, “Have you tried X? Y? Z? AA? Etc.”) Problem-solvers are helpful when you’re stuck in a revision quagmire and can’t figure a way out (or can’t decide if the revision does the thing you need it to do). Their feedback can help you make a list of issues to address in your next revision or identify ways to polish up a nearly there piece. You can hire a problem-solver (hello), but if you’re hiring work, absolutely have a complete draft of your manuscript—you’ll get much better, more comprehensive feedback if the editor can see the whole forest.

Whether you’re looking for actionable feedback or for support, know what you need and what to ask for. I didn’t get Problem-Solver help on my end of chapter conundrum, but the Cheerleading I received encouraged me to move on and not waste time agonizing since I had another chapter to revise. The time away from the chapter allowed me to figure out what was wrong, and when I went back for a final revision—hooray! The chapter now wraps up and carries forward. So while thinking about where to get advice, never forget that the best adviser you have for your writing might be yourself.



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This past month I hit a landmark in my daily writing goal: 1,500 days of writing! I talked about how I started writing daily when I hit 1,000 days back in 2018, so if you want the origins of this obsessive goal, check out the post, 1,000.

While I’d like for this announcement to be filled with positivity and congratulations, that’s not entirely how I feel about it because aside from writing daily, I feel like I don’t have a lot to show for all this hard work.

Since 2016 I’ve finished a novel, revised a novel (thrice), wrote half a draft of two other books, and drafted many other short stories, though I haven’t published any original fiction. In other words, my writing life has been stagnated in the measurable areas “that count.”

Writing 1,000 days provided me with consistency and confidence. It helped shake off some of the doubt I had about my ability to start and keep writing. But writing another 500 days has brought with it different concerns and questions. Most specifically, how do I turn this productivity into published works?

That’s the question I’ve been grappling with this past month. I don’t believe there’s an easy answer—and there’s certainly not one answer—but I’ve been throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks, and see what sort of drips down the wall because it’s kind of sticky but not fully cooked. (If you’re getting the idea that this has been a messy process, you would be right!)

I still don’t have any answers, but I have a list of things I’ve tried:

  • I set up a new email address and emailed myself like I was a writing coach.

    Sounds goofy, but I figured it was finally time to take advantage of my abilities to analyze other people’s work and my ability to disassociate when I’m speaking to or through a character. Essentially this became a more organized way of talking to myself out loud. (And it was a little more productive, because I’d already written all the ideas in the email!)

  • I wrote a revision plan.

    This is actually an old practice, but something I haven’t done in a while, for whatever reason. I read over a short story and instead of shuffling commas and agonizing over diction, I kept notes on what needed to change and what I needed to review. I translated that into a progress chart so I could work through each item and check it off.

  • I tricked my resistance to specific tasks by making goals of other tasks.

    I admit that I didn’t do this on purpose, but it wound up working, so it’s going on the list. When I was making my Writer’s Five goals for February, there were two projects I was considering focusing on for my write and release goals. The one I picked was a short story I felt some resistance to working on, but felt pretty comfortable about where it was. I avoided working on it by instead working on the project I felt more resistance to completing because it included revising an outline and sample chapters. But, uh, I finished the outline and am into the sample chapters. While avoiding the other task. So… yay?

Do you have any “tricks” you use to get yourself to finish writing things? Mind sharing? I need some help.