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39 things to do when you are feeling a bit angry with your novel: the revising edition!

1. Check clock. It seems to be a time of day you usually spend working on your novel. You had a bad feeling that might be the case.

2. Slowly walk over to your computer, saying gentle, encouraging words to yourself inside your head, as you would to a small frightened animal you’re trying to lure out from under the couch.

3. Switch on computer.

4. Open Pinterest.
5. Pinterest is full of the same sweater over and over again. Curse Pinterest. Open facebook. Facebook is full of pictures of some amazing party that you weren’t invited to.

6. Wait, wasn’t there something you were meant to be doing right now?

7. Open your To Do list. It is very long and very, very vague. ‘Make second half less disjointed’. How exactly were you planning on doing that? ‘Make chapter two work better’? What does that even mean?

8. Make more detailed To Do List to replace vague To Do List.

9. Make To Do List of further To Do Lists that need to be written.

10. Realise that you haven’t actually done any editing yet.

11. Open one of your favourite scenes and reread it lovingly for the fifty-seventh time, tweaking small things here and there.

12. You have a strange, sinking feeling that something is not right. In fact, you’re starting to suspect that your beloved scene might be kind of unnecessary and its existence is actually contributing to all that disjointedness that you’re meant to be fixing.

13. Consult notes from one of your most trusted beta readers. Funnily enough, they seem to have said the same thing.

14. Make growling noises. They’re wrong. They’re obviously wrong. That scene contains some of the best sentences you’ve ever written and without it there is no chance that you will ever win the Printz.

15. Open a different scene.

16. Stare at a single sentence for a long, long time. Contemplate deleting it.

17. Read sentence out loud. It sounds okay. No, actually it sounds wrong. Notice that an owl ornament on your shelf is staring at you. It clearly thinks you are a bad writer.

18. Put ornament in drawer.

19. Hear strange noise. Check under couch for small frightened animals.

20. Remove ornament from drawer.

21. Go back and stare at sentence again.

22. Maybe you should just delete the word ‘quixotic’. Who actually uses the word quixotic anyway?

23. Actually, maybe you should leave it. If you delete quixotic it will detract from the vividness of the language and your high school English teacher will read it one day and be unimpressed.

24. The phone is ringing. It is probably someone who already knows that you are working right now, but they felt important and pretentious enough to interrupt, because obviously they don’t care whether you use the word quixotic or not. They probably don’t even care whether you ever get published or not. Stupid arrogant phone ringing person. Decide not to answer the phone.

25. What if it’s your agent? Maybe they just happened to be talking with an editor and then –

26. Rush to answer phone. Knock over a cup of coffee you can’t even remember making. Get to phone just in time.

27. It is a telemarketer.

28. Ask telemarketer what they think of the word quixotic.

29. Marvel at how quickly they hung up. Quixotic is obviously a terrible word choice.

30. Remove coffee stain from carpet.

31. Decide to keep quixotic.

32. Go back to favourite scene.

33. Yeah. It actually is kind of unnecessary, and if you removed it, the two scenes on either side of it would flow seamlessly into each other as if it was never there in the first place. This is interesting.

34. Reread your most favourite of all your favourite sentences in your favourite scene. Wipe a tear from your eye.

35. Delete scene.

36. Take a deep breath. You feel giddy and strangely liberated.

37. Go back and delete quixotic, and a whole pile of other words as well. Replace them with a few carefully chosen new words which work much, much better.

38. What if the reason Chapter Two needed fixing was because it was not actually meant to be chapter two? What if it happened somewhere else? What if it was Chapter One?

39. Look up at that owl with its ever staring eyes and smile. It doesn’t smile back; it thinks your novel is a mess. You don’t care. You are making the mess beautiful, one tiny step at a time.

Read the companion post about writing first drafts here!

Image adapted from Owl Ornament! by Zachary Leetch (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Leila Austin

Leila lives in Middle Earth, also known as New Zealand, and writes YA fantasy.

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  1. "Make second half less disjointed."

    Oh, if only it were as easy as we make it sound on our editing to-do lists! Oh, well. We have to start somewhere.

  2. Oh, thank you for posting this! THANK YOU

  3. So funny...and so true. And the whole 'Quixotic' conundrum reminded me of an Oscar Wilde quote: “This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back again.”

  4. YES!!! I can especially relate to #24. This post is my editing life! Thank you!

  5. Oh man. Nobody understand the crazy lives of writers- or their mastering of the art of procrastination- quite like other writers. ;-)

  6. Oh God. My life, right here. My freaking weirdbutt excuse for a life.

  7. I hate that this is so true!


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Item Reviewed: 39 things to do when you are feeling a bit angry with your novel: the revising edition! Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Leila Austin