Losing My Revision

by | Nov 19, 2021 | Weekly Prompt

That’s me in the corner. That’s me in the spotlight, losing my revision.

It took me a full year to screw up the courage to begin–again–to revise my novel manuscript. But I did begin. 

I set a goal: March 22, the pub date of Matt Bell’s revision book, Refuse to Be Done, which I’m planning to use as a major resource for getting through this draft.

I made a spreadsheet to track my progress through the revision, something I’ve found helpful and something Matt recommends, as well. I invited other people on Twitter to join the spreadsheet so we can track together. Today’s prompt is, for those of you who would like to set a major writing goal and make daily progress toward that goal, to join our spreadsheet, or to use another spreadsheet I adapted from one I made for a client (hi, Erin!) to track privately, if you are more secretive about these things. 

For nearly a week, through (mostly) mild illnesses of both kids and both parents, I scratched out minutes and hours to revise. Bit by bit, I worked out a new Chapter 1 with major shifts in perspective. It’s a complicated, jumpy chapter, in the 4th draft, but I smoothed it out. I liked it. 

And then I lost it (the new draft of Chapter 1). The file didn’t save. Or, I didn’t save the file. I’ve become accustomed to Google Docs. I’m used to AutoSave, but apparently it wasn’t on, and my Dropbox was full so it wasn’t backing up there automatically, either. 

I lost it (my mind). I mean I lost it so bad that it scared my husband, temporarily. I thought I’d made some cosmic error, that I wasn’t meant to 

I calmed down. I started again. And my faith in the project is redoubled. 

I mean, it still sucks! But it’s also going to be a better Chapter 1 this time. Because really, I lost the words of the week of revision, but I didn’t lose the work I did. It’s still there, and as I think about that draft, I realize that, while it was new and improved, it didn’t get my best energy. It was dutiful, not vital–a week’s worth of proving to myself that I could delve back in. 

In the past, I’ve recommended a method of revision in which you rewrite from memory, without looking at the previous draft. But while I’ve passed along this method to students as it was passed along to me, I’d never actually tried it. So here goes–I’m doing it. Teacher as practitioner. 

The tracker has kept me going. I told you all last week that I could at least promise to keep the faith, so that’s what I’m trying to do. Keeping the faith doesn’t mean continuing to hammer away at projects that just aren’t working, and it definitely doesn’t mean a linear path between the point A of starting a new manuscript and the point B of a final draft and publication. 

In this case, though, I do have faith in this novel’s potential. I have ideas and energy. I have a deadline! My real, secret goal, though, is to work on it steadily between now and March 22–and then to keep working on it till the draft is ready. 

Steady might not mean every day, and it definitely might not mean that the new draft is all done by then. That’s okay. It’s historical fiction now, after all, so it can’t be dated no matter how long it takes. After I finally get it published (or let it die a natural death, if it comes to that), I think I’ll write a “self-help for writers” book called How to Write a Novel in a Decade–Or More!


Set a big goal. Doesn’t have to be NaNoWriMo big, but it should be a little daunting. 

Then track your progress. Every day, set a goal for the day, and log it. At the end of the day, record what you accomplished. 

On my group tracker, there’s also a place for Notes. That’s for a little more on how the day went, or maybe thoughts for the following day. 

On the private tracker, those two things are split into two sections, with some prompts for each one. Keep it pretty short. This isn’t morning pages; this is shorthand, at-a-glance kind of stuff. 

If you join the group tracker, I will organize us a little more as we go and maybe coach us into being a ragged little cheerleading squad for one another. It will be good. 

Here’s the group tracker. Check it out, and then reply to this email saying if you’d like to join it.

For the personal tracker, you’ll need to make a copy to your own folder, or download as an Excel file if you’re still down with the Microsoft Suite even after they LOST MY REVISION. Whatever. Have at it. If you DO use the personal tracker, just let me know, and if you share it, please give Studio Friend a little shout-out. 

Here’s the personal tracker. 

Oh! And if you want to use the group tracker for your own writing group, here’s a template you can use. Again, just let me know so I can feel good. 

Here’s the group tracker template.