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  • Writer's pictureLynn Lovegreen

Revising in Layers

Revising in Layers

Everyone finds their own writing process as they go through their journey. I used to struggle with revisions until I found my own process. Here’s mine, in case it helps you in your writing.

Caveat: Everyone has a different writing process, which can vary from project to project. Play with it to find what works for you. You may find this works as I describe or with some modification. Or it might not work for you—that’s good to know, too!

I find I can only keep one or a couple things in mind at a time when writing, so I write in layers, adding a bit with each draft. Otherwise, I write inconsistently or lose track of what I’ve done. Here’s my process:

I decide on the setting, research the history, brainstorm/prewrite, research more, then write the first draft.

My first drafts are short and skeletal, basically what happens when, with a bit of description or character reactions as they occur to me. (I know some people are on the opposite end of the spectrum, where they write a lot and pare down. Others are in between. It’s all good--I’m just sharing my own process here.) I write a draft of the whole book first, saving revisions for later.

If I’m in an active critique group, I’ll share chapters as I write them, asking for where they’d like to learn more to help me know when to add details. If not, I’ll just read through and see where I need to add.

Then I start to add details one layer at a time. Sometimes I can do two things at once, if I can keep them in my mind, but it’s often just one at a time. I usually start with descriptions of people, places, etc. Then I add character parts like thoughts and feelings from the character’s point of view, and backstory. And as a historical novelist, I stop and do more research as needed to add details (like setting, clothing, events, etc.).

Once I’ve got the basic shape of the book, I stop for a break to let things settle. (Take your time—if you do it all at once, you’ll probably miss some things. Fresh eyes help.)

Then I send it out for responses/critiques. I listen for what works and what doesn’t, and again where I need to add more information to clarify or add more details.

I revise based on those things. For instance, I may spend one round adding to a main character’s thoughts and feelings within her narrative. I may spend the next one adding to the other main character. The next round may be adding more to the subplot or theme. Near the end, I look more at smaller issues like word choice, dialogue tags, etc.

It can take me ten or more rounds to get the draft in decent shape, with a few breaks to see things more clearly. And it loops through critiques during the process, depending on who is available to bounce ideas off of—a shout-out to my AKRWA and SCBWI-Alaska critique groups! I also have beta readers or sensitivity readers look for specific things when the draft is almost ready (specialized knowledge like medical or cultural aspects, etc.). You can see my post on sensitivity readers at

Want to revise your own writing? You can take my workshop “Revisions- The Art of Layers.” The Hearts Through History chapter of RWA is hosting it July 5-30. We’ll talk about revision and give you opportunities to play with revising your chapters.

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