Saturday, November 23, 2019

Writers, Rethink Revision

by Cathy Fyock @CathyFyock

Recently, I was in a meeting with a client and publisher Kate Colbert, and she said something that got my attention. She said, “You know, your book needs revision. And by that I mean a re-visioning.” She went on to say that the true meaning of revision is not just to merely rework the sections or change a word or two, but to really re-think the purpose of the piece, the readership of the book, or other critical elements. 

Kate suggests that we do a literal breakdown of the word. Re-Vision. She asks writers what vision means and they invariably say it’s the ability “to see.” She asks what the prefix “re” means, and writers are reminded that it means “again.” Revision, then, is “to see again” or “to see anew,” which is so very different from proofreading or even editing. As authors, we must first revise. Then we edit. Then we proofread. “Authors who skip that first vital step because they’re tired, or in a hurry, risk publishing a book that doesn’t rise to the level of what their readers need and what they, as authors and thought leaders, are capable of,” states Kate.

I’ve been thinking a lot about re-visioning, and ways to truly explore our work in progress (WIP) with fresh eyes. How can each of us be better at revision?

Step away from the project. Sometimes when we get too close to our project we lose all perspective and can’t see the forest for the proverbial trees. By taking a time out, we can come back to our writing and see it anew.

Print it in a different font. Sometimes we literally need to “see” it differently. If you’ve been working with your WIP electronically, it’s time to print it out. Use a different font. Use a different color. Find new ways to see it differently.

Read your work from bottom to top. I don’t mean to read backwards, but look at your closing points, then move up the page to see the points that support your summary. Does it all hold together and make sense? Does it flow?

It may also be time to engage with others who can help you see your WIP differently. I always recommend that you use an editorial board for a Beta-read of your work before sending it to an editor. You can make the work stronger before you start paying for editing services. 

Your editorial board is typically made up of three to five individuals who represent your targeted reader, your clients, and your subject-matter colleagues. When you submit your WIP to your editorial board, you’ll want to ask these questions:
  • Am I clear? Does my thesis statement come through?
  • Does it flow? Do all the pieces hang together to form a cohesive whole?
  • Does it all make sense?
  • Are there any inconsistencies? Redundancies?
  • Does it answer the readers’ questions?
  • Is this the right structure?

By revisioning your work, either by reviewing it yourself or with the help of your editorial board, you’ll have a draft that you’ll be proud to claim as your own.

Writers, Rethink Revision - tips from @CathyFyock on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Cathy Fyock is The Business Book Strategist, and works with professionals and thought leaders who want to write as a business development strategy. She is the author of nine books, including her most recent with coauthor Lois Creamer, The Speaker Author: Sell More Books and Book More Speeches. Since starting her business in 2014 she's helped more than 150 professionals become published authors. You can reach her at


  1. Great article, Cathy.
    I gained a new perspective about the revision process.
    I hope you write a follow up article in the future.

    1. Thanks so much Ingmar! What additional insights would be helpful?