Posted in Writing

How to Revise Your Novel in a Single Month


The revision process is as important as writing your novel’s first draft, and you can’t put it off forever.

Writing the first draft of a book is the necessary, difficult first step. A lot of us feel like we successfully reached the top of Mount Everest when we complete the first draft of a novel.

And yes, we need to celebrate. Have fun with your friends. Go on a weekend trip. Stay away from the laptop for weeks if you want.

But eventually you do need to sit back at your writing desk and get to work on the second draft. Stephen King recommends you wait six weeks before you begin the revision process. Six weeks to let the draft cool and allow your mind to wander to other things so that by the time you sit back down and read through your manuscript, you can bring a fresh pair of eyes to it.

I always love reading through the first draft of my latest novel, although it’s sad when you see a thousand mistakes in the first few chapters, and it’s disheartening when you notice entire scenes that don’t work at all.

No matter — you’ll get to fix everything that doesn’t work. And the best thing about revisions? You can do as many of them for your latest novel as you want for as long as you want.

I really do believe a first draft of a novel should be written quickly. Written as best as you can as fast as you can.

When it comes to revisions? You can go much slower. You can spend three months or longer on a second draft, which I’ve done before. You can revise a page a day if you want.

However, you can’t query your novel to literary agents and/or editors until it’s been revised a few times. And maybe you’d like to query sooner than later. To do that, you need to revise your books faster.

So how do you revise an entire novel in 30 days or less?

I write the first drafts of my novels in 30 days by committing to a strict word count every single day. If I’m trying to write 80,000 words in 30 days, for example, that means about 2700 words a day. I can go over that number if I want, but I need to reach it each day, Monday through Sunday.

And that’s what I just did in June! I wrote an 81,000-word YA novel in 31 days. June 3 to July 3. I started writing just 2,200 words a day actually, thinking I might take 35 to 40 days to complete it, but by the end I was writing up to 3,800 words a day before I wrote THE END.

You can totally write a first draft of a novel in a single month’s time!

And you can of course do a revision draft of your novel in a month as well.

Revising your book in 30 days or less is actually easier to schedule than the writing of a first draft. Because it’s not the word count you’re looking at this time.

It’s looking at your number of chapters.

I’ve written twenty books in less than ten years, and most of my books, probably 17 or 18 of them, have between 20 and 30 chapters. My MFA thesis novel has 30. My new YA I just completed has 27.

And the new middle grade horror novel I’m currently revising has 22.

This is how to revise your novel in 30 days. You revise one, potentially two, chapters every day.

Not scenes. Not pages. Don’t study the word count.

Just go chapter by chapter. Yes, some days will be easier than others. Some days you’ll have a four-page chapter to revise, and that writing session might be done in twenty to thirty minutes!

And then another day you might have a massive fifteen-page chapter in front of you to revise. Do it anyway. Do it all!

You can absolutely revise your novel in 30 days or less if you put your mind to it.

Now this is not to say the entire revision process of your latest novel will be completed in 30 days or less. I’m talking about a specific draft of your book. Draft two or three or five or nine or whatever it may be.

I used to complete three revisions of a novel before I queried it to literary agents or publishers. So that would have been three months or so to complete the entire revision process before I sent my work out.

Three months of the actual revision. That doesn’t include the months you should let your work rest between drafts, or the time you should allow beta readers to read and give you feedback on your novel (this should typically be after your third draft), or the time you need to take to write an awesome query letter and complete your synopsis.

This month, for example, I’m revising the fifth draft of my new middle grade horror novel, Dark Glasses. I wrote the first draft in December/January. I wrote the second draft in February. The third draft in March/April. The fourth draft in May.

And now in July I’m working on the fifth draft, as always, chapter by chapter. I started revising chapter one on Monday, July 8. And I’ll complete the revision of the final chapter on Monday, July 29. 22 days in 22 chapters!

So start today and not tomorrow, will you? Don’t let that first draft sit there another minute.

Take it out, give it a read-through, then plan a schedule for your revision. Plan to revise one chapter every day. If your book has 50 chapters or 60 chapters, aim to revise two chapters a day.

However long your book may be, you can absolutely revise your latest draft in 30 days or less. I’ve done it before, dozens of times, and you can, too!

Just believe in yourself, and believe in your story. Go for it!

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