Revise It! Evaluating Your Story Revision Goals

Why are you revising this manuscript?

Writing inside out means always coming back to the goals, motivation, and heart of your story. It means owning your deepest truths and convictions and then infusing them in every aspect of the writing process.

It’s owning your Push.

Good revising takes good planning, and good planning starts with knowing what your goals and mission and Push are for your story. Even if you’re revising this story on a ‘have-to’ basis because you’ve been blessed with a contract, returning to your own motivations will enable you to tap into more enthusiasm, energy, and productivity when you’re in the depths of “where the crap did THAT sentence come from?” or its sibling, “who wrote this? A five-year-old? Oh wait, no. I did. Whoops!” or their cousin, “holy infodump, Batman!”

Yes, those are quotes from my own self-revision process, lest you think that editors and coaches are somehow superheroes who can crank out perfect manuscripts with breathless ease. While expertise can make story-crafting easier, every writer still has to travel the same journey in revisions and self-editing.

Evaluating the revision process makes ultimately your life easier and gives you quantifiable goals that can work within your revision schedule.

Evaluating Your Story Revision Goals

Why do I need to revise this story right now?

If you’re under a deadline, this is easy to answer. You committed to producing the product, and now you’ve gotta buckle down and do it. The next step is just to figure out how to fuel your brain and creativity to get the job done.

If you’re not under an imposed, necessary deadline, consider carefully what would serve you and the story best. Setting aside your manuscript and allowing it to breathe is a part of the writing process and allows your brain to rest–and this doesn’t just mean novel manuscripts.

A romantic spoof short story I recently released, Hearts Ablaze, was written three years ago in a flurry of satirical creativity. Then I set it aside and worked on other things. When I returned to the story this past March and realized it was actually good, I was evaluating the story with three additional years of experience, not just wishful thinking.

Three years is an extreme example, but always consider the possibility that setting work aside could be part of your process.

What are three reasons I wrote this story? 

These don’t have to be deep, complex reasons. They could be a message on your heart, a desire to have fun, or an excuse to entertain yourself. One reason could easily be “because the owner of the magazine asked me” or “because I want to enter this contest” (although in both of those cases: why that magazine or that contest?). The important thing is that you know those reasons and that you write them down (or at least keep them in mind). Your three story reasons are your focus and your encouragement as you revise.

What are my publishing plans for this story?

Your plans may already be decided by the publisher or the contest. Otherwise, what do you plan to do with this piece? Are you writing a short story to tease out a future release? A quick novella to experiment with a concept? Are you working on a series of books? How do you plan on publishing them? Once a year? In quick succession over a year? If you’re looking to query a series for traditional publication, I strongly recommend outlining as much as possible ahead of time to show the house, and if possible, have more than one book written.

Or maybe you wrote this story for fun and don’t have any future plans. That’s fine too! That was a main reason why I wrote Hearts Ablaze. Just tuck the story away for later or keep it as a fun brain-game–but always stay open to possible publishing urges!

What does my ideal reader look like for this story–and what would I want them to say about it?

Picture your ideal reader. What do they look like? What do they wear? What kind of activities do they enjoy? What do you want that reader to notice about your story? Picture your ideal book review from that reader. Other than “I just bought a hundred copies” 😉 what would you want that review to say? Sure, you can’t actually choose what reviewers say, but you can revise your content to meet reader and genre needs (while still honoring your vision). This is a really helpful exercise when submitting to magazines and contests, because in those cases you already have the readership in line, which makes them easier to target.

Who can I share this story with?

You know your story best, and your excitement for that story is contagious! Part of writing inside out is knowing your motivations and passions and sharing those naturally with potential readers so they catch the fire. However, this passion can get stalled if there is anything in your work that you’re not comfortable owning.

Consider now the reactions of friends, family, and your present/future fan base. If there would be disapproval or concern over you authoring your story, that doesn’t mean you can’t go ahead. It does mean you should evaluate how much you want to invest in the story, whether you want to adjust anything during revisions, and how you want to present it to others. If you’re in a job that mandates a certain degree of self-censorship, consider using a pen name. Otherwise, this question at least forces you to understand the core of your story and identify your audience so that you own whatever controversial subject matter you’re working with.

Why do I like this story?

Always come back to this. Your feelings towards the story will always come through. Yes, an editor can help filter those things out, but why force yourself through something you aren’t enjoying? Especially if you have to write this for a deadline, make a list of things you like just to remind yourself of why you’re at this. Invest in your delight of your story and ‘bank it’ in different ways so that you can pull from that passion when you’re in the depths of seemingly endless detailed rewrites and revision. Make Pinterest boards. Collect articles or objects that inspire your work. Make playlists. Sketch. As a bonus, all of this passion can make marketing easier when you get to that stage!

Your story is worth your investment of time, passion, and purpose. And if after all of this, you’re feeling flaccid and indifferent, I ask again:

Why are you revising this manuscript?

Greetings, authorsmiths! I’d love to hear your answers for any/all of the questions above in the comments–and if you’re in drafting mode, I’d love to hear what your WIP is about, and what makes it so awesome!


This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. This was a great article. Yes, it was informative, but it also re-inspired me, and made me think about why I love my story. Passion reignited! Go Janeen! Here are my answers for my WIP:
    Why do I need to revise this story right now?

    I want to have it ready to pitch sometime this year.

    What are three reasons I wrote this story?
    I wanted adventure and fantasy in my life. I pictured a girl who is an Elvish mage and an excellent archer. Wanted to write about God’s love, to demonstrate it in a way that is subtle and not preachy, more like someone coming alongside and teaching. I wanted to write a love story that showed the kind of love that a woman can and should expect from a man.

    What are my publishing plans for this story?
    I want to pitch to an agent who will get me a good publishing contract with a traditional publisher.

    What does my ideal reader look like for this story–and what would I want them to say about it?
    I want women of all ages who are into adventure and romance, who are unsure of God’s love for them, but may be open to receiving it. Seekers or women who have questions about their faith even if they are Christ-followers. Would probably be good for people who enjoy The Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia and other epic fantasy. Fans of Once Upon a Time and Dr. Who, gamers whose interests cross over into the world of fantasy.
    Look like average person, wear nice clothes, but are on a budget, not afraid to dress casually, or to relax and have fun. Not the prim and proper kind. Not afraid to read something that their peers might not approve of. Enjoy the out-of-doors, but not necessarily athletic or into sports. Want them to notice the adventure, the story world, the lovable characters. Even though the antagonist is “evil,” he is also sympathetic. Also the themes that run through it.
    “Great adventure of an Elven archer who sings to her bow. The way that the music played a huge part in this story was awesome. Loved the way, Aralyn had to learn she is lovable. There were twists, turns, and surprises, but not so many to make it hard to follow. I loved Gillis and Elnala. Orandon was great too. Loved the playful dragon lizards, and the wise dragon Drehensil who took a stand for Aralyn. The villain in this story was surprising as well.”
    Who can I share this story with?
    Amanda T., Mike, Pastor Troy(?), Crissy, Adam,
    Why do I like this story?
    I love my story because it involves a strong woman with skills but who also has a serious flaw. She believes no one can really love her and is “content” to live with that fact. She has to learn that people around her do care for her and love her as does the dragon. Even her enemy respects her (which is really what she thinks she wants). Re’ah is the Christ figure who is “there” for her. She doesn’t understand why he cares so much for her when he has many others to minister to. Her decision to finally fully follow Re’ah and his God, comes when she realizes she is loved.

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