Zen and the Art of Revision

I’ve pointed out before that I’m a fan of minimalism, and working on becoming a minimalist. A while ago, I found this old blog post by Miss Minimalist (who doesn’t blog regularly herself anymore) about creating space. It compares minimizing your possessions with art. Today I want to take her example and compare your art with minimizing your possessions.

Here’s a few tips on how to put some space between your notes:

1. Start with a clean slate. It’s often easier to compose from scratch than fix something that’s flawed. So when you’re decluttering your closet, your living room, or your schedule, empty everything out of it first. Then, put back only those possessions (or activities) that you cherish the most.

When I finished my NaNoWriMo draft of my WIP, I exported it to my Kindle and read the whole thing twice, the second time taking notes on what was already there and what needed fixed.

Now, as I create my second draft, I opened a blank word document, opened my Kindle, and began typing. I now have to question every word I originally wrote and put back only the ones that are doing their job.

astass / Pixabay

2. Lose the “filler.” Every item in your home, and task in your day, should contribute something of value to your life. If something does nothing more than take up space, give it the heave-ho. Filling your living room with extra tchotchkes is like putting extra notes into Clair de Lune.

Right now I’m struggling with the second scene in my book. The way it’s written now is 100% backstory. It’s like filling my living room with stuff I never use. During my read-through, I came up with a way to make it useful, but there is a lot of filler that has to go. Some of it is filler that I enjoy, filler I remember writing, that I think adds to the ambiance of the story. It’s time to realize what is ambiance and what is clutter.

Something’s gotta give

3. Put everything in its place. A melody depends on every note being in the right place. Similarly, having designated spots for all your things makes your daily life much more harmonious.

One of the most annoying things about revision for me right now is that it’s a dual narrative. I have the antagonist and the protagonist’s perspectives on different timelines. Deciding when to insert the antagonist’s mini-chapters is agonizing for me. Finding where “in its place” is will be one of the hardest parts of this revision, and I’m still not sure if I’ll get it right.

Magnascan / Pixabay


  1. In finding what can be cut upon revision, time helps. Let your work sleep for a while before rewriting. You can be much more selective and brutal if necessary about what stays and what goes.

    • Thanks, Larry! Excellent advice. I did this already; the work was written in November. Plus, since I make a living as an editor, I’m not very attached to my words and am more brutal on myself than others. I write sparsely to begin with and need to fill out the story with more content, but it doesn’t keep me from being brutal about what stays and goes.

      Thanks again for the comment. You are spot on. 🙂

  2. I love how you compare decluttering to cleaning up your MS. I am a huge fan of tossing stuff out/donating clothes etc. I used to call it “anti-hoarding” …I get anxiety just thinking about those hoarder shows. How can anyone let it get to that point? My motto is, if I moved to a tiny apartment tomorrow, what would I take with me? It’s amazing how few things we really, truly need. And I adore the wide open space of the room that’s left behind 🙂

    • I am a huge fan of tossing stuff out, too. My mom doesn’t get it, which is funny. Right now I’m into just not buying in the first place, but there is still so much to toss. I love your idea of thinking about moving into a tiny apartment tomorrow. It really isn’t much that we need. I’m so with you about the wide open spaces, too. and it’s perfect for the little one!

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