No matter how you got there --
30-day NaNoWriMo novel or
five years of cautious, patient, writing
-- your book is done.
Only now you've discovered
revision is ten times harder
than first draft.
There’s a way that works, and that has worked successfully for thousands of people. I’ll tell you about it in a minute.
But first, let’s talk about what most people do.
On TV, in movies, in novels, and even on writer's weblogs, you see people who make a living from their writing laboring through their fifth or tenth draft of a novel, falling behind on their deadlines, struggling to figure out what went wrong.
And more importantly, struggling with how to get it right.
And the funny things is, this is one place where popular fiction shows something the way it is.
They're doing their thing on a patient who isn't breathing, who has bled from everywhere, and whose heart has stopped...
...and they can't figure out why that nose job isn't bringing him back to life.
And honestly, when I got started, I tried the “nose job” approach, too.
And failed miserably.
Almost every writer does revision wrong, by starting on page one, line one, and "fixing" the story one sentence at a time.
Almost every revision kills most of what's good in a novel without fixing what's bad.
Almost every first draft never makes it to second draft.
And almost every first novelist abandons that first novel forever, tucking it (and with it the opportunity to learn the most amazing part of writing fiction---how to turn first-draft dross into final-draft gold) in a box under the bed.
Right along with those dreams of writing something worth publishing.
... and I'm a full-time, well-paid, well-reviewed, internationally published novelist. (25 years, 32 novels published with major publishers, a stack of novels and short fiction now indie-pubbed with more on the way.)
But I spent the seven years before I had a career (while I was an emergency-room nurse) trying to get a handle on revision. I sent out short story after short story. Revised each draft and each project time and again.
All the while garnering more than a hundred rejections and no acceptances.
Analog, Asimov’s, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Aboriginal … and many, many publishers of magazines you never heard of and I hadn’t, either.
I stored my rejection slips in a big man’s big shoebox, and I filled that sucker to overflowing.
So believe me, I KNOW how hard it is to get a revision right. I got it wrong so very many times.
Oh, not in sales. Everybody on the planet shot my first novel down.
But in revision, baby. I learned how to rock in revision.
I tore that first book apart, piece by piece, over and over and over, trying to figure out what was wrong with it, why it didn't work, how to make it work. In spite of the fact that it never sold, I learned an incredible amount from that particular brutal failure of fiction.
I then had a steady run of about seven years where every single thing I wrote sold first time out.
Yep. All of those in in my first seven years as a pro. I worked all the time.
Runs like that don't last (unfortunately) but I have sold my work to major publishers in the US and around the world, have been translated into a dozen languages, my new indie reprint and indie frontlist novels are selling well...and after the several years I spent struggling to figure out that first one, I've never spent more than a few months on any revision.
It's not because I know how to write near-perfect first drafts, either. My first drafts are as mangled as everyone else's.
Fortunately, that’s not a problem anymore.
Because I've learned the secrets of doing a good, clear, intentional revision.
Recognizing and saving what works, fixing what doesn’t.
And not screwing around for years on going back and doing it all over again and again.
And more than two thousand other authors have already discovered that they can do this.
What I do is a combination of:
➤ an intelligent, focused approach to the problem at hand,
➤ a series of techniques and skills I figured out,
➤ and a simple system that lets me apply skills and techniques logically, step by step.
The way I revise requires only your desire to fix the book you wrote so that you can move on to the next one. And your willingness to put in the time and effort to THINK about what you've written, and what you want it to become...
...and then to use simple techniques to make the book you imagine become the book you wrote.
Why did you sign up, Carl?
My first ever novel, Mad About Undead You, was a mess. It had parts that were genius (IMHO), but most was a scattered, disconnected mess with many scenes that just didn't belong. The voice was wrong, too, as was the POV.
What were you hoping to get out of the course?
Teach me how to write. Believe it or not, up until HTRYN, I honestly though that great writers never rewrote. (I thought that rewriting was cheating.)
I know better now. Rewriting is actually the best part, where it all comes together and where the "magic" happens.
Your most exciting moment while revising?
Just understanding that there is a way to see the big picture, the view from the mountaintop. I was always nose to the grindstone, one scene at a time. Now, when I write each scene I am always thinking, "What's the connection to what has come before and what has yet to come in this story?"
How has the course met or exceeded your expectations?
This is Holly's blood, sweat, and tears. She has put so much love into this course it is overwhelming. I like to say that I now have a PhD in novel writing thanks to the 2+ years I spent revising Mad About Undead You using Holly's HTRYN course. Harder--and far more beneficial--than the Masters in Writing that I received from an accredited college.
Every day that I worked on my novel with Holly's guidance, I would ask myself, "How is it possible that I didn't learn this in college?!" Now my book is published (indy via Someday Press) and was a Quarter Finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Awards and a Finalist in the Indy Excellence Awards (both for 2013). Probably could have won more, but I only entered those two contests!
What do you say to the person thinking about taking the course right now?
It is worth ten times the cost! Holly is practically giving away a lifetime's worth of insight and practical knowledge. She leads you gently by the hand through dangerous and difficult territory. You start her course knowing little to nothing (regardless of where you are in your writing career), and, if you stick to it and sincerely complete EVERY lesson, you emerge a real writer. A writer who understands and can apply the craft.
—Carl S. Plumer
Carl isn’t my only student who already had a Masters in Writing when he took this class. Folks with all sorts of advanced degrees in writing, journalism, literature, and other word-related fields have taken it.
Because this is the process I used for all the many years where 100% of my family's household income was from fiction I sold to commercial publishers in the open market.
I didn’t have tenure, so I couldn’t waste time on theories. I had my brain, and my butt in the chair, and my fingers on the keyboard, and deadlines, and kids to feed, and bills to pay. If I didn’t write AND SELL, we didn’t eat.
So the only thing I could afford to do was what worked.
This is what works.This is what I’ve been looking for.
Why did you decide to start this course, Sam?
I got stalled on editing my novel 'Truth Seeker.' I hoped that it would teach me skills that I could use to turn this novel, and all the stories after it into something I can be proud of.
You're just now wrapping up the Triage section. What have you taken away so far?
Every time I look back and realise that I know why I kept feeling this novel wasn't quite right, and best of all I have some glimmerings of how to go about fixing it.
A great step-by-step way to analyse the problems in my pieces that my logical brain loves, and hopefully when I get a bit further on (only on lesson 8), ways to fix them too.
Is the course what you expected?
So far I'm finding it great. A heck of a lot of hard work, but great. I've even found things I can apply while writing my shorter pieces, to the extent that I've started self-publishing some of them.
Suggestions for the writer looking here for help fixing a first draft?
It takes a lot of time, and a lot of work, but if you are stalled and have no clue how to edit the piece you are working on and make it shine, then this will help with that. I plan to use it again and again with every novel I work on, and I plan to write a lot of them.
Being honest here, I know that spending twenty-two weeks to learn how to do this may seem like a lot. But consider...
And as you’ll soon see, if you’re currently pinned to a revision deadline with no elbow room, I’ll give you an emergency fast-track method you can use—starting on day one—to revise your novel in as little as one week, even before you’ve mastered the full revision.
***Throw away 60,000 words? All different? Twice? Same book? Tight deadline? You didn’t really do that, did you?
It was the nightmare I thought would never end. The book was Closer to Chaos (a horribly appropriate name), which became The Wreck of Heaven. In class, I use the broken manuscript, and then the fixed one, to show you not just where I screwed up, but what I finally had to do to get it right.
You'd been writing for years, Peter. What were you hoping the How To Revise Your Novel course would do?
Help me find the problems in my manuscript that I was too close to see and develop a viable process for taking a novel through revision.
Any favorite moment?
When I had identified all the problems with my first draft and was able to start "fixing" them.
What skill that you learned helped most?
The ability to systematically identify the areas that need repair and the tool kit to actually repair them :-)
How has the course met or exceeded your expectations?
I never could have realized the issues I had with everything from timing to conflict arcs. HTRYN not only helped me to identify these, but showed me how to correct them.
What would you tell someone considering taking HTRYN?
I spent over forty years trying to write and publish a novel. The end result, a drawer full of unfinished manuscripts. It wasn't until I completed HTTS and took the first draft through HTRYN that I will be finally publishing my first novel. The Dragon-Called: Fire of the Covenant (Book 1) [was] published in October 2013.
Holly’s note — 2016: Peter's sequel, Betrayal of the Covenant, will be coming soon.
You’ll be thrilled, on the other hand, to discover how easy this problem is to find — and fix — once you have your system going.
And even better, how many fewer times you make this mistake writing your next book, and the ones after that.Missing conflict? Yeah. Must fix that.
Why did you decide to sign up for How To Revise Your Novel, Jade?
I had a goal to self-publish my novel by the end of the year and I knew I needed some heavy revisions before I could send it to the editor. I was looking to revamp and realign my draft so it fit together perfectly.
What is the most exciting writing moment you've had because you took the course?
I really loved the introspective moments like doing the Triage Theme Summary...looking at all the things I did right and all the things I did wrong made me step back and evaluate where I was at and where I wanted to be.
What about writing or revision skills you've acquired from the course?
There are too many to even count! Honestly, I think looking at the novel in a big picture sort of way and breaking it down into manageable bits was the most important thing I learned during this course. HTRYN course has given me structure and a guide to follow when revising. Though it was a lot of work, I know I'm a better writer and reviser because of it.
Anything you'd tell a writer considering the course?
If you're serious about writing and about your craft...take this course. Even if you don't use 100% of the material....whatever you do use is completely worth your time and money! Stop thinking about taking it and JUST DO IT!
When Jade talks about learning to look at your story in a systematic big-picture way, and breaking it down into managable bits, she’s talking about fixing THAT.I SO need a workable system.
Finally, Anne Lyle...
I signed up for Holly Lisle's latest Writers' Boot Camp course, How To Revise Your Novel. The course was a revelation, helping to turn my revisions from panicky flailing around in a morass of conflicting ideas, into a methodical process where I felt in control. And I ended up selling the manuscript in a three book deal, so obviously it works.
Anne did a little better than a three-book deal, actually. On the strength of her first novel, The Alchemist of Souls, she was a nominee the British Fantasy Society's Best Newcomer Award. She successfully wrote and revised her second novel, The Merchant of Dreams, to contract.
And on her blog, she discussed working her way through my other major course, How To Think Sideways, while she wrote the third novel, The Prince of Lies. Which is now also out.
From the Acknowledgements in her first novel, THE ALCHEMIST OF SOULS:
Not long after Fire in the Mist came out, I met my publisher, Jim Baen, at a convention, where I discovered that my first book was doing very well. Well enough that he offered me a three-book deal on the spot.
So I took my check and my three-book deal home from the convention with me, and handed in my notice to the hospital...
…and invited all the folks in my writers group to my house...
…and we all celebrated while I burned my nursing uniforms in a bonfire we had in my back yard. Writers With Matches. That was us.
My fiction career started while I was an emergency room nurse, where my job was to assess life or death situations, think quickly, and take the right actions to save lives, I learned this process bone-deep. And when it came to looking at my writing, I applied the same process, and adapted it. So I’m going to introduce them to you in medical terms.
Trauma Triage — where your objective is to FIND the big bad stuff before your patient (book) croaks
Major Surgery — where your objective is to FIX the big bad stuff before your patient (book) croaks
Cosmetic Surgery — all that fiddle-farting around you do to make your patient pretty once the big bad stuff is over
Okay, making your ugly book beautiful is important. But if THAT's where you start your revision (as damn near every writer, amateur AND pro, does) your novel is gonna diiiiieee.
Medical students don't start cutting on patients the first week of med school. First they have to learn what they have to cut, and what's healthy and needs to be left alone. They have to learn to recognize and diagnose problems before they can learn to fix them.
So tell me WHY the FIRST thing writers do with a manuscript they've just finished writing is to start cutting on it?!
If you ever want do to a revision that's worth a damn, you must first learn to identify all the places in your book that you wrote right...and all the places you wrote wrong. You, too, have to learn to DIAGNOSE before you can learn to FIX.
Why, you're wondering, would anyone in their right mind want to spend eight weeks learning to do that?
And I reply: Maybe because YOU don't want to spend the seven years it took me to learn to do a revision that worked at all...or the roughly fifteen years it took me to learn to do a GREAT revision. Maybe so YOU don’t have to throw out 60,000 words TWICE on the same book.
Maybe YOU'D like to learn---in FIVE months---how to do a real revision that actually fixes your book (and every book you write after this one).
But I have to tell you, if there had been anything that could have given me a shortcut through that agonizing, frustrating, years-long process when I was starting out, I would have been after it like a drowning woman for air.
You’ll need them. And here’s how you’ll get them.5 months sounds better than 7 years. Or never.
This is the most important (and frequently the most difficult) part of revision...and the majority of novelists, including pros, never do it.
You cannot hit a target you cannot see.
Which is why even big names in fiction waste years slogging through multiple revisions. They never bother to create the target they want to hit...so they don't hit it.
It really is that simple.
You, however, are going to identify in your manuscript:
What you wanted to write, and WHY you wanted to write it...
What you actually did write, and where you missed your target...
And what you want the story to be when you finish revising it.
During this process, you’ll start finding places where you went in the wrong direction—that’s easy. You’ll also start finding the places where you were amazing—and identifying your own moments of brilliance is much more difficult.
I’ll bet you didn’t realize you were making promises while you were telling your story...
…but from your very first word on your very first page, you started making them.
And then you kept some. And you broke some.
There are three kinds of promises in every book ever written. They are:
The promises ALL writers MUST make (and most writers usually break)...
The promises you intended to make (though you probably didn’t think of them as promises)...
And the promises you made by accident.
Your promises are the heart and soul of your book — why you wrote it, why it matters, why anyone else should care.
Get this right, understand THIS, and not just everything you revise now, but everything you write in the future, will start making sense and falling into place.
Get this right, and you can make every book you write better than the one before.
Some writers never get the hang of scenes, or learn the easy rhythm of conflict, twist, and the interplay of characters.
But you'll learn how to break down what you've written to diagnose both where and HOW your story starts going wrong.
You learn to diagnose:
If you've written scenes at all — some bits of fiction masquerade as scenes, screwing up your story until you learn how to add what they're missing.
What happens in each scene in your story—and what doesn’t, but should. You'd be amazed at how simple this is...
And what each scene brings to your story, and whether it’s carrying it’s weight. Or not. A LOT of times, you’ll find it’s not.
And then you’ll be amazed to realize that most writers never even check, and that THIS is why their stories drag, break, and bore.
I would never bore the crap — ever-loving or otherwise — out of my readers.
Okay. Answer this question...
Which scene have you written because “it has to be in there,” even though you didn’t have any fun writing it?
THAT is the scene that’s going to make their eyes glaze over. And I’ll show you exactly what to do INSTEAD of writing that dull-ass scene...
…because there is no such thing as “The scene that HAS to be in there…"
But I digress. Onward.I’ve actually witten more than one “has to be in there" scene. Help.
Plot moves your characters through your story in an entertaining, surprising, and comprehensible fashion.
Or at least it does when everything goes right.
In first drafts, "everything" never goes right.
So you'll learn to identify and diagnose:
Your primary plot, where it hangs together, where it blows apart...and WHY.
Any secondary plots you've written, what they contribute (or don't)...and WHY.
And any evil NotPlots you've put into your story that are sucking the life out of it...and WHY.
QUICK ASIDE: There are writers who make a big ideological stand about plot in books being the One True Sign of Hack Writing.
So let me define plot: A plot is a character taking action to solve a problem, and dealing with the consequences of that action.
Writers who don’t believe in plots are writers who are saying they don’t believe that the consequences of actions should be important.
<insert looooooong pause here>
These are writers who need to NEVER CROSS A STREET IN TRAFFIC, mmmkay?
Writers frequently mistake conflict for argument (which, unless you have a spectacular "reason why" for it, is the least interesting kind of conflict it's humanly possible to write).
Writers also frequently forget to include any sort of conflict whatsoever in their scenes.
You're going to to learn how to determine:
What kind of conflict you’ve created in every scene (and whether it’s the right kind or the wrong kind).
Conflict progression through your story to resolution, and whether you did it well or badly.
And whether each conflict you’ve introduced adds to or subtracts from your story…and whether each one matters.
Here’s an example. There are stories where a subplot about the sweet little grandmother working hard to win a cooking contest is going to be really important.
HOWEVER, unless Grandma is cooking up nuclear brownies, if your main plot is about a small band of renegades fighing to prevent the end of all life as we know it, this isn’t going to be one of those times.
You might laugh. But I’ve seen subplots this bad and worse. Some have been blatantly awful. Some have been subtly disastrous. And time after time, I’ve even written them into my own first drafts. But none of them made it past me to an editor.
Writers don't have the constraints of movie-makers — and mostly this is good.
However, when you get to character creation, the unlimited writing budget allows the writer to hire every out-of-work character who comes traipsing across the transom of his mind.
This is not good fiction.
So you're going to learn to dissect the following:
Who is this character, and what is he doing in my book?
What’s his job, and is he doing it… or is he taking coffee breaks and surfing the internet?
Should you keep him as is, make him work harder… or shoot him?
Shoot a character? Oh, yeah. We don't mess around with characters in HTRYN. Buggers will eat you out of house and home if you let them.
Why does this lesson matter?
Ask anyone who has ever read fiction, “Who’s your all-time favorite fiction character?” (If they’re big readers, give ‘em some elbow room. Change the question to, “Who are your five or ten all-time favorite characters?”)
They’ll have answers for you.
This drives me nuts. REALLY nuts. SF and fantasy writers get the importance of the world in a story. Historical novelists get it. But everybody else seems to think that any little scraps of world you find lying around are good enough to toss into your world as background.
The story's world matters, whether your main character never gets off his front porch during the entire novel, or whether he spends the book leaping from galaxy to galaxy, and whether you're writing mainstream, literary, romance, mystery...or anything else
If you’re using it right, your world is a never-ending source of characters and conflict (and if the word “series” has ever flitted across the transom of your writing mind, it is the one of the four core elements in keeping a series going.)
This week, you’re going to learn how to figure out...
If your world fits your characters and enhances your plot…or if it’s in the back room taking a nap while they’re struggling alone...
If your world is adding deep and meaningful conflict, or if it couldn’t drop a conflict rock and hit the floor...
And if your world is throwing you gripping complications and cool twists. Or if it’s just lying there like a sun-baked road-kill toad.
It is impossible to tell a good story without having your story world make critical contributions.
Unfortunately, it’s dead simple to write a bad one without spending any time on your world. And most people do.
While you were writing, you may have considered Story and Theme. You may not have. Most writers, after all, give them only cursory attention.
But Story and Theme are what pull everything else together.
They refine your target, illuminate the priorities in your promises, and spotlight every Scene, Plot, Conflict, Character and World problem your story has.
So you’re going to figure out:
If you have broken or abandoned themes, and how they’re broken...
Weak themes (and why they’re weak), or themes that are missing altogether (oops!)…
Or a story that holds together with a tight, compelling theme… or how to get it to if it doesn’t yet.
Your theme is what you have to say. Stories without themes disappear.
If you're thinking, "Ah, now we get to page one, line one, and we start editing," think again.
You’re going to find out:
Editing versus Revision versus The Complete Rewrite, WHY they're not the same, and when and WHY you use each.
The step-by-step process for changing "what is” in your story to "what needs to be."
And how to refine your revision needs and musts into usable form...what I call The Block Revision process.
Believe it or not, the first week was the toughest lesson, and the first eight weeks were the HARD work. By the time you’re doing Lesson Nine, things are easier. Not easy. But EASIER.
curmudgeon— noun — def. Grumpy old fart who sits on the porch scowling at passersby…
…and possibly throwing sticks...
I show my writers how to work out the essential elements of their scenes, and then move the scenes around IN PRACTICE to see if there are better ways they can present the story BEFORE they actually dive into making changes and then doing the necessary rewriting to make those changes fit.
I show them how to test characters BEFORE they change or cut them to make sure doing so isn’t a mistake.
I show them how how to RETHINK the plot before REWRITING the plot.
I do all of this by having you build the elements of your revision in a notebook, on worksheets, and on index cards.
Don’t do this.
There is no One True Way to revise any given story.
There are, instead, an infinite number of ways you can make your story wonderful (and just as many ways you can make it suck).
So I am not going to teach you the One True Way to fix your story. I’m going to teach you how to think your way through the process, and then figure out the BEST way to fix it to make it what YOU want it to be.
If you’re hoping I’m going to tell you, “Okay, now cut out all paragraphs that begin with the Letter M…” as if you were a child who couldn’t think for yourself….
RUN. A long, long way from me.
This class doesn’t work like that. You have to make decisions on every single aspect of what you want your book to be.
And then you have to TEST them.
Hi. Remember me? Threw away 60,000-ish words while writing a contracted novel? Twice? On deadline?
Still hit the deadline?
I screwed up by not testing my ideas before writing them — first draft, so different process.
SAME DAMN RESULTS.
Don’t skip testing.I kind of overlooked … testing ...
This is where you'll learn to take the broken, mangled, or even nonexistent story and theme you discovered back in Week Eight and turn them into something whole and good.
Here's where you give your story the powerful engine you want it to have, building it from pieces of what you already wrote.
You will write the theme you want, the story core you need, and the plane you must have to create them.
Earlier, you identified which characters were weak and which were strong, which were cast well and which had the wrong roles.
But as you worked through later lessons and learned more about what your story could be, your ideas will have changed and improved.
This week, you will decide who stays, why, and what they’ll contribute — who goes, why, and who gets all the good stuff they’ll leave behind — and exactly how each character who remains will connect with your ideal reader.
Be patient and thorough in this lesson...
Here's where you take every flawed scene and every misconceived plot and subplot...and you fix each one. Non-destructively. With testing.
When you determine your best story length, rewrite your main plot to your target, keep and hone your best subplots, remove the less than stellar ones, turn your NotPlots into compelling, exciting subplots, and cut JUST fat, NEVER meat...
…Your story will flow better, make more sense, and become much more fun to read.
This is where you make sure you don't leave any threads hanging, but it's also where you make sure that every thread you're running belongs in the story and matters on several different levels.
You’ll fix the places where you committed action rather than conflict (committing action is bad), you’ll build real, meaningful conflict, keep only the conflicts that improve your story, raise the stakes for your characters, and bring it all to a satisfying conclusion...
so that you can...
This week, you’ll learn and master the basics of controlling the timeline of your story events.
You’ll set up your events timeline, evaluate your use of story time, test alternate story and time orders to find improved conflict possibilities, and learn when and why you may want to alter the presentation order of story events.
As with everything else in revision, because your story is unique, the things will help you make it better and the things that will cause you to break it will also be unique.
And because you created it, the only person in the universe who can figure the use of time that will make your manuscript the truest and best version of your vision of what it could be and should be is you.
Complex time moves beyond the range of when events happen in the story, focusing instead on playing with the reader’s comprehension of time out of story.
You will learn and put into practice the How, When, and WHY of...
…Foreshadowing, where it belongs, and where it doesn’t...
…Backstory—when it helps, when it makes the story drag, and when it needs to go away completely…and how to make it work WHEN you use it…
…Flashbacks and Flashforwards, and revising through and around them…
…Past Lives, Alternate Realities, And Other Paranormal Time Treatments, and how to make sure yours work…as well as how to know when they don’t, and what to do with problems...
…And you’ll make sure your book begins at the REAL beginning of the story.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."
If you are inconsistent anywhere in your story, your readers will feed you to the lions and cheer while you scream.
All your work, effort, diagnosis, planning and rethinking culminates at last in the moment you've been waiting for.
First you learn the pro techniques for Block Marking your manuscript.
Then you go through a step-by-step walkthrough of the Rough Cut that utilizes all the preliminary work you've done in an orderly, sane, non-destructive fashion.
And then you will take pen in hand, and...
And once you've finished your Rough Cut, you'll move on to the third stage of revision.
Can you see why things don't work out for them?
This is how writers can do five or ten or twenty revisions on their novels, or spend YEARS, not months, struggling with the details, and still end up with a books they hate.
But even when it's time to line-edit, not all line-editing is created equal. And ...This is EXACTLY where I’ve been starting. Help me.
This is where writers suddenly start obsessing about commas. Wrong focus.
Commas do matter, but not as much as you think. So you'll learn commas...but you'll also learn the much more important stuff...
What Style and Grace in writing are…and what they ain’t...
How to shape your voice and weed out what doesn’t sound like you.
How do identify the difference between Writing Rich and Writing Self-Indulgent… and how to fix the latter.
And how to use the professional novelist's techniques of line-editing (these are not the same as a professional editor's editing techniques).
This consists of fixing dialogue bugs like talking heads, stage managing, and trivial dialogue...
...Working through description bugs like killer infodumps, pointless description, and fuzzy writing...
...Writing action conflict instead of FCS (Friggin’ Chase Scenes), as well as mixing big action, small action, and action in stillness...
And making it all flow together like you wrote it that way the first time.
You're nearing the finish line, and doing your final handwritten changes. This week, you will work your way through testing and strengthening:
Your beginnings, to make sure every scene has a compelling open.
Your endings, to make sure each one will make your reader NEED to read what comes next.
Your transitions, to be sure that each one gets your story from logical plot point to logical plot point without including a lot of clutter.
Your pacing, so that where you want speed and tension, you have it, and where you want the reader to catch his breath, he will.
And finally, you will do one final run through the Step-By-Step Problem, to make sure you have eliminated it entirely.
This is the last step before you send out query letters to editors and agents if you’re shooting for commercial publication, or before you start interviewing editors if you’re going indie.
And it's a big step, with plenty of its own surprises still in store. (Simple typing rarely enters into the equation, actually.)
So what you'll do during this lesson is:
Prepare your manuscript and yourself for type-in.
Deal with spontaneous live revision, and how to know when it's a good idea, and when it's a bad one.
Handle Type-In Problem #1 — Fixing stuff you missed.
Handle Type-In Problem #2 — Missing stuff you fixed.
And, of course, you'll DO the type-in.
And you’ll learn how to pull your query letter from your revision materials. (No, writing query letters isn't technically a part of revision. But you have the book done, dammit. You might as well know how to send it out.)
And officially, that should be the whole course. But once you know how to do a revision well, your life will be better if you learn how to do "well" faster. So…
I don't spend twenty-one weeks revising an average novel.
I can revise a 100,000 word novel to publishable quality in about a month...and I only do ONE revision.
I still do EVERYTHING you've learned in this course.
But I've learned over the years how to streamline the process.
So now that you have the skills, in this final lesson you'll learn:
How to never revise a book the hard way again.
How to carry what you learned about your writing from this revision into your next FIRST DRAFT.
How to do the "Mental Checklist" on paper until it fits in your head.
And how to use the course worksheets into your writing and revising future.
Why did you take the course?
I wrote what would later become the first two books in my Anniversary of the Veil fantasy series during NaNo 2009. Fast forward to December 2010 and the books were still just sitting on my hard drive, because I had absolutely no idea how to go about revising them. I was pretty desperate until I discovered HTRYN. I have since self-published both the novels and am about to publish the final part of the trilogy. I'm sure I could never have done that if I had not taken the How to Revise Your Novel Course.
I was hoping to learn the art of revising, which is something I have very little natural inclination towards. I can write the first draft in a few weeks, but revision was always foreign to me. "Was" I say, because after taking the course this is no longer the case.
Most exciting moment?
That would have to be the publishing of my first book, Protector (Anniversary of the Veil, Book 1). In the year and a half since I published it, this book has gotten very favorable reviews and I know I couldn't have done it without taking HTRYN.
Most important skill you've learned through the course?
Learning how to dissect the different parts of the novel, such as worldbuilding, characterization, plot, subplot and making sure each part fits into the whole perfectly.
How has the course met or exceeded your expectations?
At the beginning, I was sure that revision was beyond me. Now I can revise my books in two months, and I am getting faster and more efficient with each book. The course has also helped me plan better for my first drafts.
Your advice to prospective students?
If you're serious about publishing then this course will not only help you achieve that goal, but also enable you to produce the best work possible.
— Vanna Smythe
Most important of all, you’ll find that — no matter how many wrong roads you went down
…you’ll still get the novel you wanted.
...and (through the first stage, triage) demos in which I show you how to use the worksheets while I revise a first novel written by a new writer.
In these demos, I’ll SHOW you what various mistakes look like on the page, because it’s easier to see someone else’s mistakes than your own.
Along with the lessons, worksheets, and demos, you’ll have access to both topical lesson discussions and free-ranging student discussions in the HTRYN Forum.
Private, members-only… everyone in there is either going through what you’re going through, or has already been and done … and is back for more.
You don’t have to use the forum, but it’s active, it’s awesome, and it’s there when you need it.
I’ve thrown in some other neat extras, but I’ll leave those for you to discover as you go through the course.I want this. Put me in class.
Relax. You don’t have to do a lesson a week. The course is entirely self-paced.
You can take as long as you’d like to finish each lesson—every lesson you pay for will be permanently available to you, even if you drop the course partway through.
Stay as long as you like. Run through the process again with your next novel. And the one after that, for as many novels (or other projects) and as long as you’d like.
Your colleagues in the class and forum, veterans and newcomers alike, are wonderful folks.
THIS IS THE BIGGEST REASON NOT TO GET THIS CLASS. How To Revise Your Novel starts on day one, minute one with you working with your completed manuscript that is at least 6000 words long. More than 20,000 words will give you a better chance to use and practice all the techniques — but the class will work with short stories, too.
However, if you don’t have a completed manuscript, you’re looking for my How To Think Sideways class instead.
And this was on deadline. With one month left to do the revision and turn it it. But I had written the number of words the contract called for when I did that.
And yes, I turned in the revised book on time, using most of processes I teach here [some I hadn’t invented yet], and it was accepted with minimal requests for changes. And I didn’t kill them all.
So FINISHED is a relative term. Anyway….
There’s work involved in revision. A lot of it.
I absolutely guarantee that if you do the work, the novel you revise will be worlds better than it started out… but I can’t even guarantee that all of MY novels will interest publishers.
Publishing — at least commercial publishing — is not a business that offers ANY guarantees.
If you’re interested in indie publishing, all the rules change, and you will be able to publish a much better book than what you have sitting on your desk right now.
Will readers buy it? I cannot guarantee that, either.
If you’ve seen everything you need to know to do a publishable revision…and you’re STILL thinking that, I can’t help you.I’m the right writer for this class.
When I found Holly’s writing site I had already ‘finished’ my first book and was about to ‘finish’ my second. I tried to edit them and nearly killed anything worth reading in the process. I wanted to write, but I was floundering, badly. I’d read Holly’s books for years. She tells a great tale. When she said she could teach me to write like that, I jumped at the chance. I was very torn, but I took HTRYN first (since I had two novels sitting around gathering dust.)
I had never edited anything at that point in my life and made it better than the original. I didn’t have a system, and I knew it.
I needed help.
There are so many exciting moments! It’s hard to pick. The moment when it all clicked and I knew that I was going to be a professional writer…that was a good one. Or the moment when I sold my first story. Or maybe seeing the cover art for the first time. That first book sale. I can’t pick just one.
I think the most important thing I learned was that it was possible. You hear so many people scoff and say things like ‘Oh, there are lots of people who write…not many get published!’ There is no negativity in HTRYN. Instead the focus was on the things you can control: writing good fiction, writing every day, figuring out your core values and using them…and persistence.
I can’t say that often enough. Holly’s courses invite you to write wonderful stories and break down why they work (and why they don’t) and then she encourages you to keep submitting, keep looking, and never, never stop. She helps you build that thick skin that successful writers have to have.
I thought I was buying a writing course when I purchased HTRYN. (laughs). What I got was a course on applied critical thinking for writers. This doesn’t just list off a couple of common problems and give you advice while patting your hand and telling that ‘you really are ok’.
Oh, it does list common problems. And it tells you how to fix them. But it gives you the tools to do so much more than that. This shows you how to fix them yourself, from the ground up.
You literally can not buy this information anywhere else (and no other published author would sell it at ANY price…much less make it available to other writers).
After using the information on three books and a dozen short stories, I would pay three times what I paid for the course, and it would still be cheap. As a single mom, it was difficult for me to find money in the monthly budget to pay for this course. It wasn’t a matter of giving up a daily Starbucks or a weekly ‘date night’.
It was a real sacrifice every month to pay for it. It was worth every single red cent.
— Vanessa Wells
And I’ll guarantee that.
There may not be any guarantees in publishing, after all…
But I’m not that monolith, Publishing.
I’m where you want to be, doing what you want to do, making a living at it since 1991—and I’m happy to show you how I got here, and what you have to do to get here, too.
Universities charge thousands of dollars for MFAs—but I have students who have MFAs. I teach what universities don’t. (I also have students who have published novels, and who are professional journalists, and professional screenwriters, and have all sort of other writing-related jobs).
This isn’t a rehash of everything you’ve already read about revision.
This is MY process. I figured it out on my own, over years of trial and error—this is the system I’ve used to revise 33 of my novels (and counting) to the point that they sold to major US publishers, as well as other publishers around the world, to be translated into a multitude of languages, and with my most recent novel, which I indie-published, directly to readers.
By the way, I don’t have an MFA, or any other writing degree. And you don’t need one, either.
Oh. One more thing...You’re kidding. I thought it would cost thousands… Sign me up.
Here’s the scenario I’ve lived through several times now.
Your editor contacts you and lets you know that you have 7 DAYS to win J.T.’s lead-title slot and big-bucks book-promotion budget… if you can revise your completed manuscript to fill that gaping hole in your publisher’s line.
In The 7-Day Crash Revision, you’ll learn how—and how YOU become your editor’s go-to pro—the one who doesn’t blow your deadlines.
How to dissect the novel you have, and plan the novel you want…
How to make only the changes that improve the book, and not the ones that will kill your contract…
How to hit the deadline most writers think is impossible…(because for them, it IS impossible)
How to stay creative and clear-headed in the most competetive and high-pressure situation writers face…
How to deliver the book your editor wants—and make sure it’s the book YOU want, too…
The scenario (in a dozen different variations) happens all the time—and has happened to me personally several times.
And I’ll teach you how to do the same thing.
The first thing you do when your editor asks, “Can you do this?” is say “YES.”
The second thing you do is figure out how you’ll deliver YES.
So I’ll show you how to deliver YES, and when YOU get that call, you’ll be the writer who comes through when no one else could.
On day one of the course, along with your first lesson, you’ll get my 57-page Crash Revisions module.
If you’ve ever considered writing a series...
Or if you’ve tried and failed…
Let’s face it. Writing fiction is hard — at least it is if you intend to write well enough to sell your work. Facing down the prospect of creating a series that could run 300,000 to a million words, though, makes writing a solo novel feel like a walk in the park.
You have 192 types of series to choose from…seriously.
Only a few of these will be right for your writing style, your genre, your interests, and the story you want to tell—and starting your series by choosing the wrong series type will make it next-to-impossible to finish writing your series…never mind selling it.
How do you decide whether you should be writing a bullet-proof cast, inconsequential-time, big-world series as loosely-linked stand alones?
Or whether your story needs a loner-centered, consequential-time multiverse presented as linked sequential stand-alones to make it soar?
Or whether one of the other 190 variations would fit better.
Figuring out how to choose the series type that’s right for you is the first thing I’ll teach you.
…How to create limitations that will prevent your series from turning seriously stupid...
…How to work out in advance the two critical elements each of your main characters must have in order to prevent accidentally breaking your story several books into the series…
…How to design the skeleton world that will keep you on track, on deadline, and save you a surreal amount of time both before you write, and then all the way to series end…
…How to use the Rule of Significance to decide what to leave out of your series — this is equally as important as what you include… and doing this one thing right will make you more creative, make your story fresher, and get you writing faster than you could imagine…
…And how to write your series plan, the tool you’ll use to write and adapt your series from book one to the very end.
But that’s just week one…
Writing a series is NOT like writing a solo novel. In the first book of your series, you have a whole series of tasks you must accomplish to set up all the books that follow.
Miss a step, and lose readers. It’s that simple.
In Week Two, I’ll teach you how to present your characters, what you must include about them when you introduce them, and what you can hold back.
I’ll show you how to establish the essential details of your world right away, and make sure the readers who will love what you’ve written will know they’re in the right place when they pick up your book.
You’ll learn which limitations you need to get on page one of Book One, and why — and which limitations can wait a while before you break them out and show them off.
What character bloom is, why it’s a bad thing, and how you prevent it...
How and when to corral diverging plots, and why sometimes you’ll want to let them go their separate ways…
How to see crashes coming, and what to do before they hit…
What to do when you lose your message…
And when to let an “unplanned oops” stand, and when to rip out the pages it happened on before it sinks your series like an errant missile through a rubber raft
In Week Two, you’ll also learn the special characteristics of a series novel ending, and how to bring the first book to a close without infuriating your readers, cheating your story, or wrecking the book.
How to determine the nature of your characters and present them as your “first example”
How to demonstrate your series stakes
How to introduce readers to your long-term theme
And how to establish your series “continuity hook”
With your blueprint for Book One established, it’s time to move on to…
The bigger your series gets, the more complicated tracking story events, character changes, plot twists, and loose ends becomes. So in Week Three you’ll learn how to Track and Connect.
You’ll develop your system for:
Keeping what happened in earlier books straight,
While planning changes you need to include in the current book,
While dealing with unplanned changes that could affect your final outcome,
Even as you’re fixing problem characters and
Adapting to cool series surprises
You’ll also learn to use timelines. Some of the 192 varieties of series don’t need them, but even if you decide to write one of these varieties, you may want to do a different series later.
And before you even write Book One, which is when this will do you the most good, you will learn to plan your exit strategies.
You betcha. You’ll plan:
The one you need when you get sick of writing the series, or when you’ve reached its logical end.
The one you need if your series gets cancelled early. (It happens. A LOT.)
The one you need if your publisher throws so much money at you to keep the series going that you simply can’t say no. (Hey, that happens too. Almost never, but it happens.)
No matter how you go out, you WON’T go out by breaking your story, murdering the character everyone loves just so you can get even with your publisher, or writing an ending so stupid people will be talking about it for years. (St. Elsewhere, do you hear me? Sopranos? Sheesh, people…)
And in Week Three you’ll also learn how to pitch a series, both if you’re a first novelist, and if you’ve been published before but have not yet sold a series. You need different strategies for each situation.
Apply these techniques to your series fiction (and to your stand-alone stories, too).
This version of How To Write A Series (First Edition) sold for $97. You get it FREE when you graduate.
And you’ll receive a $97 discount to upgrade to the new expanded version, if you wish to do so.
Do you want to be like that clueless cosmetic surgeon who’s trying to save a dying guy by doing a nose job?
Or are you going to take on the challenge of becoming the writer who knows how to revise?
Have your lessons delivered to your secure student page every week for 26 weeks. Learn the workable, successful path to getting a good revision the first time.
After you complete your purchase, you will IMMEDIATELY start class — even if it’s 3 AM —
and will have access to HTRYN Lesson 1 and 7-Day Crash Revision Module 1.
Because the class is self-paced, you can work through alone
or ask questions and get help on the HTRYN forum.
You can be like all those writers out there floundering around on their dozenth revision. Or you can learn to do it once, and learn to do it right.
Be the skilled ER trauma doc for your novel.
P.S. The course sells as a five-month subscription for $77/mon, or as a single payment today of $377 andd I guarantee your satisfaction. You’ll be able to quit at any time. I’ll refund the full amount you paid for the first 30 days, and a pro-rata amount for the lesson you most recently received and all lessons not yet received.
You CAN create the book you want from the wreck you wrote. Start today.
After you complete your purchase, you will IMMEDIATELY start class — even if it’s 3 AM —
and will have access to HTRYN Lesson 1 and 7-Day Crash Revision Module 1.
Because the class is self-paced, you can work through alone
or ask questions and get help on the HTRYN forum.