Behind “The Process”: Leave Breadcrumbs, Yo! (Making Big Revisions)

Big changes can be scary.
But not if you’re prepared!

Whether you write your first draft by hand or straight to the computer, is an argument for a different day–in fact, I blogged about it before–because once it’s in the computer, there’s a tendency by many to revere said writing as doctrine. Maybe typing your work into a word processor makes it look and feel official–more than just scribbles. I can’t change it now, it looks done. First draft (by hand or, if you must, typed), second draft (made it prettier), done. Right?

Mm…sometimes, maybe. More often than not, there’s more work to be done. Here’s the basic process:

  1. Write down an idea in a logical way
    • Don’t worry about spelling (there, their, they’re; too, two, to…etc…) or internal punctuation (commas, dashes, apostrophes, semi-colons, etc…)
  2. Clean it up
    • Fix the little things
  3. Look at the whole thing again.
    • Look for plot holes, make sure that early behavior/dialogue is in line with the middle and end–that kind of thing. But say, during your revision read, you come to a spot where you think, Oh, boy. This doesn’t feel right. I think I need a major plot change. Whether it’s a case of characters behaving in an unauthentic way, or you simply had a better idea creep in after you wrote your first draft, writers worry that big changes could ruin everything they’ve worked so hard on thus far.

Good Advice Alert:

Save your story in your computer as it is, prior to making any big changes/cuts. Then make a copy, being sure to rename it. If you’re working title is The Time Catapult, save the original as “The Time Catapult”. Make the copy you’re going to alter and rename it something that distinguishes it as a break from the original, like “The Time Catapult–Lauren Goes Into the Storm”. (This is assuming in the first draft, someone else goes into the storm, but it just didn’t make sense after reading it over that it wasn’t Lauren. From there it all kind of fell apart. Pick a reason why, I don’t care. It’s not even a real story. Get over it already.)

You can rewrite a few scenes or chapters. Write until you get a feel for the new direction. You should be able to feel whether it’s better or not pretty quickly. And if you can’t tell right away, shelf it for a little bit and work on something else. A very good writer once told me…

Good advice alert:

If you get stuck when you’re writing, don’t stick with it until you get frustrated; go work on something else. Even if it’s something you’re going to throw away, just keep thinking and writing. If you don’t get stuck on being stuck, you’ll figure a way past it.

In closing…

Keep reading what you’ve written, looking for reasons to change and fix things until you can say with confidence, This is done, and be proud to show it to anyone. Until you get it there, don’t be afraid to veer off the path you laid out in your first or even second draft. Just leave breadcrumbs so you can get back if the new path doesn’t go anywhere.

And if you just don’t know where to go next–take a breath, do something else creative for a little bit, and come back to it with a fresh perspective.

Easy peasy.


Thanks for reading!

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