Project revisions shouldn’t start small

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Go for the big stuff first.

A magic weekend, or a writing retreat, can get a good revision underway. Agent Kate McKean wrote a summary of how to approach a big project like a book revision. Agent Kate McKean suggests several steps. Here’s the high points.

First, reread your work in full. It takes a while, and you might not be able to bear marching through the work again. She says the re-reading helps you prioritize. A beta reading report can save you this house-to-house approach to evaluation, so long as you trust your beta readers and have enough of them.

Next, McKean says don’t do the little things first. Do the big things first, so the rest of the rework feels so easy you’ll glide through it. “The big thing usually ripples throughout the whole manuscript,” she says. “There’s no point in going in and changing the tense on a section you may just have to cut anyway.”

After that, there’s the time to do medium stuff. Changing tense (using active tense — and where — is the big question) or trying out first person versus third. It’s tempting to do the medium changes first off, just because you wrap your brain about them easier.

Finally, the small stuff. Name changes, McKean says, or checking timelines, weather, dates, and consistency. “These will feel like a piece of cake after the other two steps, so enjoy that relative ease!”

You can read her advice in full if you subscribe to her newsletter (a Substack production at $5 a month).

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