Guest post by K. Kris Loomis, author of the new book, Surviving Revision: How One Writer Finished What She Started.
One of the happiest days of my writing life was the day I finished the first draft of my first novel. I announced it to the world, drank a celebratory martini (with blue cheese stuffed olives!), and felt pretty smug that I was almost finished with my first long fiction project.
I know, I know. You can stop laughing now. I was a naïve first-time novelist and was soon to find out the hardest part of finishing my long fiction project was yet to come.
I took time before I began writing my first draft preparing myself for how I would go about it. I revisited various structures and decided on the one I felt would best frame my story. I bought some note cards and plotted the main scenes. I wrote an outline for each of the acts to make sure my plot points would fall in the best possible place. This preparation helped me focus, and in several months I had my first draft done.
After the celebration was over, I leafed through the pages of my first draft and realized I had no idea what to do with the big mess in front of me. Writing a first draft, while a huge accomplishment, is only the first step toward a completed manuscript ready for publication.
It soon became clear I had another round of prepping to do. I needed to prep for revision in a similar way I prepped for the first draft. I needed to prepare, both mentally and physically, for the long revision slog ahead. Luckily, my revision prep paid off, and I was able to stay sane and healthy while I revised my novel.
Every writer I know struggles with self-doubt occasionally. It goes with the territory. So I decided before I started my revision I would shore myself up beforehand in hopes of side-stepping that nagging self-doubt.
I wrote these things down on a card and read the card often:
Every book I’ve ever read is a revised version of a first draft. If other authors can do it, so can I.
I believe in the story I am telling and believe it has the right to exist.
I am a unique person and my writer voice is just as valid as any other writer’s.
I can finish this book because I finished the first draft. Most people never even make it that far, but I am a finisher.
I will not panic because for every problem there is a solution.
I am prepared to do whatever is necessary to revise my novel, even if I have to eliminate my favorite character.
I will seek help when I need it.
By keeping these statements with me during the revision process, I stayed mentally focused and positive and never once doubted my ability to finish what I started.
Writing is primarily an activity for the brain, but our brain is housed in our physical bodies. The act of writing requires physical participation, either by writing by hand or by tapping things out on a keyboard. And the rest of our body can feel the result of writing if we have bad posture or forget to take frequent breaks.
Here are some simple things I did to keep my physical body healthy while I revised my novel:
I maintained my daily yoga practice.
I used the Pomodoro productivity method while working so I wouldn’t forget to take breaks.
I kept a big bottle of water by my side and stayed hydrated.
I went on a walk if I got stuck.
I munched on healthy snacks when I felt my energy waning.
I do a lot of my work at a standing desk, and I have a desktop attached to my exercise bike, so I reduce the amount of time I spend sitting. If you do most of your work sitting, breaks become even more important so that you can relieve your body of the cramped seated environment and stave off backaches and cricks in your neck.
One Last but Very Important Preparation
If you live in a household with a significant other and/or children, you need to spend a little time prepping them for what you are about to do. Writing and revising fiction requires time for deep thought, so getting your family on board is crucial.
I don’t have children, but my husband is retired and has a tendency to pop his head in when I’m working and ask what we’re having for dinner or if he needs to go to the store for anything.
So, after I wrapped my head around what it would take for me to finish my novel, I sat him down and explained how important the project was to me, and that I would need some uninterrupted time every day to reach my goal. I told him ahead of time exactly how long I would be working each day, when I would be finished, and then I stuck to that schedule.
If I told him I would finish in an hour, I stopped after an hour no matter where I was in my process. Because he knew he would have access to me at a specific time, it was easier for him to hold his questions until I was “available.”
Writers need to maintain relationships and meet their family obligations if they are to have a healthy writing life, so it’s worth the time spent to get your family on board and excited about your work (even if they don’t understand it!).
Every writer’s revision process will be different, but taking a little time before you start to prep for your journey will help keep you focused and confident. Happy writing and revising!
You can read Prologue One to Kris’s new book, Surviving Revision: How One Writer Finished What She Started, HERE!
* The following may contain affiliate links which means, if you choose to purchase one of Kris's books, she may receive a commission (at no extra cost to you).
K. Kris Loomis is the author of the new nonfiction book, Surviving Revision: How One Writer Finished What She Started. She has also written several books on yoga and meditation, as well as a travel memoir about the time she, her husband, and their handicapped cat moved to Ecuador.
When Kris isn’t writing at her standing desk, she can be found playing chess, folding an origami crane, or practicing a Bach French Suite on the piano. She lives in Rock Hill, SC with her husband and two cats.