Revise! Revise! Revise! by Vivan Zabel

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

For the past ten years I’ve read and heard, “Don’t do any revising or editing until you have finished writing the whole story or book.”

What! That goes against common sense and everything I’ve learned in all the years I’ve studied, have written, have taught, and have read. The reasons I disagree are several, but a main one (and I’ve seen examples of this too many times) is if an author waits until after he finishes and then changes something toward the start, he often forgets a later part of the story affected by the change but not adjusted. A story develops from the beginning to end, and once written, any change at the beginning makes differences later in the piece, changes that are easy to miss. Thus cohesion and coherence become weak and faulty.

I know some “writers” who think any major editing should be done by an editor. Let me share something I found in the August issue of The Writer. According to Sam McCarver, the author of six John Darnell mystery novels,    

In the time-intensive world of publishing, you may have only one opportunity to intrigue an editor with your writing, your main character and your story. And you must often do than within pages – or the first few sentences – of your manuscript.

 Editors are pressed for time and very perceptive in identifying good writing, interesting characters and gripping stories, so they move fast through  your pages.

McCarver goes on to say that an author must write the best story or novel possible: edit it, polish it, enhance it. Then he should read and make final changes – all before ever allowing anyone else to read it. Yes, before allowing anyone else to read an manuscript, the author should have spent hours improving a rough draft.

Writing a story or novel is only half the job: Revising is the other half, a most important half, of writing. Ernest Hemingway, E.B. White, F. Scott Fitzgerald all admitted the need to revise and rewrite. Hemingway admitted he cut as he wrote, yet, he would take weeks to revise a book.

McCarver’s article “How to revise your FICTION” gives eight steps for editing a person’s work. I happen to agree with his points, especially the one which states that delaying all editing until the manuscript is finished is a mistake.

However, let’s examine this author’s ideas, as well as those expounded in many composition text books and believed by me:

1. Accept revising as the other half of writing. E.B. White stated that the best writing is rewriting.

2. Adopt good editing procedures. To produce a better first draft, one should begin revising with the first word written, making improvements as he goes. As a writer completes a day’s production, he should study what’s on the screen, if using a computer. If he sees a need for any changes, he should make them while they are fresh in his mind.. Then he should print what is finished.

 According to Chang-rae Lee, winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, he tries to polish as he goes because what leads him to the next sentence is the sentence before. “I find that it’s hard to move on unless I’ve really understood what’s happening, what comes before and where it’s heading.”

3. Review printed pages. Writers should print out the pages finished and set them aside to “cool.” Then they should read the printout with a pen in hand, noting corrections or revisions that will improve the writing. After making changes on the computer, writers should reprint the pages, adding to the pile of finished pages. Each day’s, or period’s, work should be the same: writing, rereading, editing, and making changes as one goes.

4. Identify errors and correct them. According to McCarver, three procedures are critical in the revision process: correcting mistakes, improving content, and enhancing the story.

The first attention needs to go to spelling and punctuation errors, typos, grammatical mistakes, and inconsistencies in tense or point of view. Although such mistakes may seem minor to the author, editors expect manuscripts to be virtually free of any errors.

5. Improve content. “What you say and how you say it also must be polished to the best of your ability,” states McCarver. “Improving content also includes considering the structure and sharpening your word choice,” as well as re-examining characters for consistency, making sure the plot hangs together, that scenes are compelling and dialogue natural, and that all loose ends are tied up.

 Word choice is a topic for another editorial, but it is a vital part of good writing.

6. Concentrate on enhancement. Enhancement goes beyond making corrections and improving content and style: It means increasing the quality and impact of the writing. A techniques given by McCarver are as follows:

 * Inserting foreshadowing for greater event impact later.       
* Increasing the emotion in dialogue and thoughts in scenes.       
* Adding or strengthening subplots.       
* Intensifying the consequences of actions and events.       
* Adding twists to the plot.       
* Shortening flashbacks, if used, and including action in them.       
* Making characters seem more real, depicting their actions, dialogue and thoughts more naturally and powerfully.


7. Do that final revision. After finishing the whole manuscript, revise again.

8. Take one last look. After revising the complete manuscript again, the author should reread the printed pages before mailing them or sending a query letter. All errors and last minute changes should be made.

All authors want to impress editors by providing a story that the editors cannot put down. Each author, through a manuscript, has only one chance to make a great first impression.

Note: “How to revise your FICTION” by Sam McCarver in The Writer, August, 2005, provided research material for this editorial as did several composition text books and notes from my files.


Vivian Zabel, former English and writing teacher, heads 4RV Publishing. She studied the art of writing for years and is now a professional editor and award-winning author of children’s, young adult, and fiction books.
Vivian often presents workshops and sessions at conferences around the nation, including the Alaska Writers Conference and the OWFI conference. She has been a member of OWFI since 2002 and the OWFI Grant Director since 2012. She was honored as the Lifetime Member in 2013.

At present, 4RV Publishing needs submissions in fantasy, science fiction, women’s fiction, mystery, suspense, and other genres for the following imprints: tweens and teens, young adult, and fiction, as well as for other well-written books for all ages, fiction and nonfiction. Details concerning genre and details of standards and guidelines can be found at the following website: http://4rvpublishing.com/manuscript-submissions.php .

The Planets – Poetry Collection by Wendy Van Camp

The Planets: a scifaiku poetry collection is a literary journey through our solar system featuring poems inspired by the nine planets. All the scifaiku and astropoetry is meant to inspire you to seek out and learn more about the history of human’s exploration and the physical characteristics of the these fascinating worlds.

Wendy Van Camp is both the poet and the interior illustrator for the collection. The book was a finalist for the Elgin Award for Best Speculative Poetry Book of the Year for 2020 and 2021.

Currently, Wendy Van Camp is composing a new astropoetry scifaiku book called Time and Space. She hopes to have it published in Spring of 2022. Look for it and for The Planets on Amazon.

Author Interview: R.K. Bentley

Author RK Bentley considers himself fortunate in being able to self publish a comic book when self publishing was in it’s infancy and now self publishing a novel. Please welcome this enterprising author to No Wasted Ink.

Hello my name is R. K. Bentley and I started off reading novels and comics books in my teens, in college I self published 4 issues of a b+w comic book and several years later I discovered National Novel Writing Month. I began to write my first novel when I joined the Association of Rhode Island Authors and created a writing group called the Rhody Writing Group. It took me eight years to finish my first novel and I published it in 2018. I’m working on the sequel now.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing in Junior High School. My first story was the novelization of the first episode of a cartoon show known as The Transformers. My other stories were self insertion Robotech fan fiction before I knew what fan fiction was. After getting a suggestion to write in my own universe I did just that. I wrote because it was fun and enjoyable.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

It’s an interesting question because in my mind, anyone can write. I never wrote a short story before I was always geared towards manuscripts so I considered myself a writer when I co-wrote the first issue of Totems, the b+w comic book I helped self published during college.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My current book is called Where Weavers Daire and it’s a mishmash of science fiction and fantasy. It takes place on a planet where immortals and mortals living not exactly in harmony. There are machines, mages and mortals. It’s the first in a series.

What inspired you to write this book?

What inspired me to write the book was I sitting on this universe for years and started writing in it during NaNoWrimo but never finished it. In the end, I wanted to publish a story, any story set in that verse so I decided to write prequel series sort of a Avengers Assemble / Gathering story.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Third person omniscient past tense. I try to write scenes instead of overview so getting the readers in the heads of the characters. I’ve tried first person but it’s never caught my fancy.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

It went through several title changes until I decide to spoof the movie Where Eagles Dare. The title isn’t a misprint, there’s a house of mages in the series called Daire. It’s book one of Stuk on the Hollow series, another play on words since the characters are stuck on this rogue planet called Stuk’s Hollow.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Cherie Priest. Tanya Huff. Dean Koontz. James S. A. Corey. John Scalzi. I like the stories they write and their writing styles. I’ve seldom have had to lem a book from any of them.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I would consider John Scalzi a mentor because he gives out great advice to up and coming writers. He’s very down to earth and isn’t full of himself. He never sugar coats it.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

The cover was pre-made by damonza.com and once I saw it I thought it fit the book perfectly. The price was right in my budget as well. It was stroke of luck to find a company that had a cover that barely needed to be edited and fit the theme of the book so well.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If you’re writing a short story: finish it. If you’re writing a novel: finish it. Once you finish it keep writing, get your work critiqued and edited. Expect feedback you don’t want to hear. Take notes and keep writing. Don’t throw it all away just because someone give you feedback you don’t want to unless…of course there is always the possibility your writing is shit and then, well, maybe it’s time to try something new.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I know Weaver was a confusing here and there but I promise it will all make sense in later books…I hope. 🙂


R. K. Bentley
Providence, RI

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Where Weavers Daire

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Publisher: RKB Studios

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No Wasted Ink Writers Links

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

Welcome to No Wasted Ink’s writer’s links. Below are the top-ten links to articles about the craft of writing, science fiction/fantasy genre, and poetry. This week I was heavy into reading abou craft, and therefore these links reflect that. I hope you enjoy them!

2021 SFPA Poetry Contest Winners

Level Up: Think Like a Teacher

Why Fantasy Should Seem Real

Disney, you must bring the Captain America musical to Avengers Campus

Like Learning to Ride A Horse

On the Kind of Fiction Called Morbid

Can Self Or Hybrid Publishing Land You On The Best-Seller List?

How Far is Too Far With a Pseudonym?

Hacking: The Secret Spice of Modern Storytelling

The Problem With Multiple Viewpoints

Happy Halloween From No Wasted Ink

Victorian Postcard - Halloween

Happy Halloween from my family to yours. Halloween is certainly a fun night of handing out candy to the little ghosts and goblins, but it is also the start of Nanowrimo at the stroke of Midnight. Good luck to all you writers burning the midnight oil tonight. Get those words in!

Author Interviews * Book Reviews * Essays * Writer's Links * Scifaiku

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