Revising vs Editing, Part 1: How I Revise my Fiction

Revising vs Editing, Part 1: How I Revise my Fiction

Revising and editing are two entirely different things to me. In this post I will share with you what revising means to me and what I do during the revision stage. Below follow the way that I revise my fiction.



I’m a visual person, someone who responds to colors, and I’ve found that revising my fictional drafts with the help of highlighters make the manuscript easier to understand (for the lack of a better word).

How, you may ask? Well, I use different colors for different aspects in the manuscript. This makes it easier for me to see how I write, what I need to improve, what I use too much of, etc.

What I do with the highlighters is pretty simple (it’s a method I read about a few years back but can’t find the source again):

  • Purple — Plot points: hook, midpoint, resolution, etc. I usually make a note in the margin of the text where the different plot points begin and highlight the note.
  • Pink — Dialogue: everything that comes between quotation marks.
  • Green — Settings and descriptions: including character descriptions.
  • Yellow — Narrative, backstory, exposition, etc.
  • Blue — Involuntary visceral reactions: including reactions like heart racing in chest, sweaty palms, tight throat, etc.
  • Orange — Tension and conflict. I used orange highlighter in the margins because orange overlaps other colors.
  • Red pen — I use red pen to underline all nonverbal communication like action (movements), body language (posture, facial expressions, etc.), senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste), and dialogue cues (how dialogue is delivered).

Beware: Readers tend to skim sections with green (settings and descriptions) and yellow (narrative, backstory, etc.). Make sure that these sections in your story count.

I personally tend to write more dialogue and narrative and be quick when it comes to settings and descriptions in my first drafts. I probably never would have noticed this if I hadn’t used the highlights in my manuscripts.

With the help of highlights I know what I need to improve (at least when it comes to the balance of dialogue, setting/descriptions and narrative).

You can use this method whether you choose to revise digitally or on paper. I personally revise on paper because I get a clearer view over the manuscript. But, the choice is yours. Do what you feel most comfortable with and what works best for you.


Different Stages of Revising

I personally, at the moment, have six stages in my revising process (this can, of course, change over time depending on what I need to improve with my writing). Before every stage, I print out the manuscript and use the highlighting method above.

When everything is highlighted I begin by looking over the balance of the story. And, like I mentioned above, I tend to skip settings and descriptions when writing my first drafts. That’s why my first step in my revising process is to add settings and descriptions.

My revising process looks something like this:

  • Descriptions added — Add descriptions of settings and characters where needed.
  • Plot holes — Fix plot holes if there are any: think about how characters move from one place to another, how they solve problems and conflicts, other inconsistencies, etc.
  • Characterization — Fix possible inconstancies in appearances, mannerisms, personalities, etc. Also make sure that their goals and motivations (especially the protagonist’s goals and motivations) are clear.
  • Plot points — Make sure that the different plot points are where they should be in the story.
  • Tone and feel — Fix so that the dark scenes are dark, the funny scenes are funny, the scary scenes are scary, etc. to bring the tone and feel that I want my story to have.
  • Pacing — Make sure that the pace of the story is well-balanced and that the action scenes, in particular, are fast-paced.

My view of the revision process is about the bigger picture of the manuscript. It’s not about the smaller things like unnecessary words or spelling mistakes. I save that for the editing process.

And, the editing process is what I will be writing about next time.

How do you revise your manuscripts?

Revising vs Editing, Part 1: How I Revise my Fiction
Revising vs Editing, Part 1: How I Revise my Fiction