Insecure Writer’s Support Group – Holly Lisle revision course

Well, it’s the first Wednesday in January, so this is the first yearly meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. At this point, a lot of my writer’s insecurities center around the Holly Lisle ‘How to Revise your Novel’ and scene cards.

Revision courses can be enough to make any novice writer feel insecure, I think. You’re learning a new philosophy about what ingredients go into a great book, and the homework exercises are applying tests to your beloved novel manuscript and forcing you to admit all of the different ways that it’s broken. As I’ve gone through the first few lessons with “Won’t somebody think of the Children,” I’ve found out that:

  • The first person narration absolutely has to go, which means that I’m going to have to rewrite the entire book just to get it into some kind of third person, and proofread it very carefully to make sure that I didn’t accidentally leave an ‘I’ or a ‘we’ in the wrong place.
  • On a related note, I’m very guilty of telling instead of showing.
  • There’s a lot of passages that I honestly don’t care about when I’m reading them myself.
  • My characters personalities are often all over the place, or simply invisible.
  • There’s conversations where two people tell each other things that they already know simply to explain them to the reader.
  • I’ve got scenes that end with whimpers instead of twists or hooks.
  • Important characters are left to be introduced near the end of the book, even though they could add to the first act.
  • In act one, I don’t establish why my characters really want the goal that they’re fighting for.
  • A main character dying at the end comes literally out of the black night of space.
  • I’m putting too much detail into introducing minor characters, and too little for more important supporting characters.
  • I’ve got scenes with no conflict, scenes with no clearly established setting, and scenes that are missing a clearly established antagonist that need one.

Of course, the obvious come-back response is that finding all of this stuff really will help me rock the revision and write a much better draft of the book. I do try to focus on that. But it can be hard to stick to the lessons and avoid procrastinating when it feels like all I’m finding is problems. That’s why it’s important to celebrate all the cool moments that I’ve come across too, the passages that make me smile when I think “I wrote that!”

8 Responses to Insecure Writer’s Support Group – Holly Lisle revision course

  1. I’m curious about the first point. Why do you think it needs to change from first person narration? Just wondering what made you make that decision. I suspect your answer could be a blog post in and of itself.


  2. I’m with Elizabeth. Why change first person POV? As to the rest, it sounds like you have a handle on what changes need to be made. Go for it, and happy writing!


  3. Cally Jackson says:

    Yes I’m also curious as to why you’ve decided you’ve got to change from 1st person. And I may be alone here, but I don’t think every single chapter has to end with a hook. Sometimes (but not too often) I think it’s nice to give your readers a bit of a breather.

    I know how tough revisions are because I’m at that stage myself. Here’s hoping our efforts produce total awesomeness! 🙂


  4. Jan says:

    I recently changed my whole (87 thousand word) novel from 1st to 3rd. I am so glad I did. I did it because the story demanded it – I didn’t think it did but I was wrong. when it occurred to me I groaned aloud but none the less – it had to be done. I found it made my novel more intimate not less. Weird but true. I was doing other revising so I built this fancy system of marking each chapter with one star for doing the first edits to it and another when I’d changed it to third. that way I could not be bored by going to whatever chapter I wanted and slowly get the whole thing converted and first edits done. I’ve been back at it for a month doing further revision but that first one was crucial. Oh…and you will find “I’s and we’s” trust me. You just will.


  5. Hehe! I was wondering about the POV change too. We all want to know!

    You have some great points to consider, and I’m sure you’ll be able to make your book rock even more. 🙂


  6. At least you realized you were boring yourself with those passages and can take them out! And killing off a character like that? Cruel!
    Thanks for participating in the IWSG!


  7. Well, you asked for it, Elizabeth – today’s post is my answer to the first-person question! 🙂


  8. Sheesh, that is quite some list! It’s gotta be tough to look at that and still be motivated… (what’s that? I’m being totally unhelpful? Sorry!!).
    I know what this feels like though. It’s like when you get your manuscript back from a critique partner and there are HUNDREDS of comments listed down the side of the document. That’s when I click the little red X and go do something else for a while!
    So yes, that is exactly why it’s important to celebrate the “cool moments.” I just found and re-read a blog post I wrote over a year ago and was like, “Wow, how the heck did I come up with this stuff? It’s pretty good!”
    Cool moment 🙂


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