Jane Porter on The Secret to a Brilliant Book!

Revision:  The Secret to a Brilliant Book

We invited author Jane Porter to share with us her revision tips.

Over To Jane now...
By Jane Porter

I didn’t always love revision.  I do now.  To quote Kristin Hannah, one of my favorite writers, revision is “Re - Vision” the book.  It’s your chance to re-imagine the book.  To take a brand new look at it and see how you can make a good story better...a great book magical.


Before Selling to Your Publisher

Once you’re done with you first draft, it’s time to do a hard edit.  You’ve got to sit down with the book and read from start to finish. 


1)      Read Ruthlessly

As you read, ask yourself:  What scenes don’t move the story along?   What passages begin to feel repetitive?  What dialogue says nothing new?  What love scene slows the plot down?  And so on.


2)      Does it Hold Your Attention?

I know you’ve read the manuscript a million times, but if you, the writer, becomes bored during certain scenes, I can pretty well assure you that your reader is going to get bored.  If you want to start hurrying over description, your reader is going to be inclined to do the same thing.  Put stickies on every section that seems to drag.  Prepare yourself to cut hard.  If you love scenes and can’t bear to throw them away, edit them out and put them in a “saved scenes” folder and hang on to them for the future.


3)      Make Changes & Read Again…Aloud

After you’ve gone through manuscript at least once, make all your red-lined changes.  Cut out scenes and passages that bogged story down.  Now read through again, and if need be, read your prose aloud.  Listen to the flow of language, the dialogue, the transitions.  Does it make sense?  How does it sound to your ear? 


4)      Trust Your Gut. 

If you keep turning pages and it flows, go with it.  But if while you’re reading, you find yourself stumbling over words, fix them.  Don’t think no one else will stumble.  They will.  Never give your reader (or editor) cause to stumble.  Keep story pace brisk.  Make it a true page turner.  Anticipate a reader getting sleepy—a sleepy reader puts a book down.  Will the reader ever pick the book up again? 


5)      Be Fearless

And lastly, one more great quote from Kristin Hannah on editing: “Be fearless.  They are just words.”  Don’t fall in love with your language.  The scenes that you adore just must be the ones an editor wants cut out.  Treat editing and revision seriously, as a vital part of the business.



Revision After Selling

Before you’ve sold when you’re doing hard edits or revision, you’re doing it to please your ear and eye.  But once you’ve sold and you get revisions from your editor (note, I didn’t say agent.  I’m not convinced that I’d rewrite books for an agent….) it’s time to sit down, focus hard, and work quickly.


1)      Tackle Revisions Right Away. 

At least, read the revision letter right away and then take a day to let suggestions sink in, but don’t procrastinate too long. 


2)      Don’t Panic

No matter how long the revision letter.  Stay cool.  Stay positive and go through revision letter slowly and carefully again.  Highlight points, brainstorm ideas, mull over suggestions. 


3)      Questions?  Call Your Editor

If need be, call your editor a day or two after you’ve received revision letter and ask for clarifications.  Don’t wait too long.  Call while the letter (and your manuscript) is fresh in her mind.  Discuss the suggestions she’s made if you don’t understand, or assure her you do. 


4)      Your Editor is Your BEST FRIEND. 

Seriously.  Even when you don’t agree with changes, or aren’t thrilled to revisit this manuscript one more time, make them.  Do it with grace and confidence and zeal.  I’ve come to view my writing as a team sport.  My editor is my teammate.  She honestly wants what is best for my book, understands the company’s marketing plans, knows my sell through numbers, knows what other editors and authors are doing.  I am going to do everything in my power to listen to her and deliver what she’s asked for.


5)      Get Going on the Changes. 

Approach them anyway you’d like—sometimes I start with the really easy things, the tiny line edits, the glitches and then I move on to things like fleshing out scenes before I hit the really tough stuff.  By that time I’m again engrossed in the manuscript and the book no longer feels cold.


6)      Fatigue

Midway through your revisions you might start feeling overwhelmed.  Okay.  Good.  This is normal.  This means you’re doing some really hard writing but it’s part of the process.  Light some candles, put on some power tunes, call your best writing friend and tell her how much you hate writing, then make your favorite comfort beverage, and get back in your chair, at your desk, and continue.


7)      Re Submit

Once revisions are done, get them back to your editor  pronto.  If your editor knows you’re a pro when it comes to revisions, submitting your new manuscript is never as terrifying because your editor knows you can fix any flaws, tighten any sagging middles, heighten any conflict, or pull out any subplot.  In short, if your editor knows you can revise as well as you can write, you’ll have more partials approved, more books slotted, and more positive feedback from the publisher. 


8)        Keep The Positive Attitude

Remember—revision is a good thing.  When you have the chance to revise, you’re getting a wonderful opportunity to make a great story extraordinary! 

Bestselling author Jane Porter has been a finalist for the prestigious RITA award four times, has over 12 million copies in print .  Jane's novel, Flirting With Forty, picked by Redbook as its Red Hot Summer Read, went back for seven printings in six weeks before being made into a Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear.  September 2012 brought the release of The Good Woman, the first of her Brennan Sisters trilogy, followed in February 2013 by The Good Daughter, and book three in the series, The Good Wife, is slotted for release in September.  A mother of three sons, Jane holds an MA in Writing from the University of San Francisco and makes her home in sunny San Clemente, CA with her surfer husband.

Jane Porter on the web:

Website  Blog     Facebook    Twitter    Author Page


The Good Wife

Is it possible to love someone too much?

Always considered the beauty of the family, the youngest Brennan sister, Sarah, remains deeply

in love with her husband of ten years. Boone Walker, a professional baseball player, travels almost year-round while Sarah stays home and cares for their two children. Her love for her husband is bottomless—so much so that her sisters say it will end up hurting her.

Living apart most of the time makes life difficult, especially since Sarah often wonders whether Boone is sharing his bed with other women on the road, even though he swears he’s been true to her since his infidelity three years ago. While she wants to be happy and move forward in her life, Sarah constantly fears that Boone will break his promise. Now with Boone facing yet another career change, tension rises between the two, adding more stress to an already turbulent marriage. Emotionally exhausted, Sarah can’t cope with yet another storm. Now, she must either break free from the past and forgive Boone completely, or leave him behind and start anew . . .

Read an Excerpt

Read Reviews

Buy Links

Amazon    Book Depository      B&N

Powells      BAM      indieBound


  1. You said it! I always take a few days to let the revision notes marinate... and I'm always exhausted afterwards. But it's hard work!!
    I appreciate the fearless mentality as that's my motto when it comes to writing.

    BTW I cried my eyes out thru Firefly Lane!

  2. Such a great post Jane! I'm getting better at some of these tips, but still have a ways to go!! :)

  3. Very good tips to keep in mind when editing a story. I'd like to keep it handy...
    The novel sounds interesting.

  4. The steps and tips help readers as well as writers. They help us understand the revision process.

  5. Some great tips. Pacing is the biggest issue for me. Knowing which scenes to cut or extend to get the flow just right. But you can feel when the rhythm is right. It just clicks. :)

  6. This is a succinct post on revisions and edits. Thanks Jane. I love...'They are just words.” Don’t fall in love with your language.' This comes with time. I also agree that editing is a team sport. We are lucky if we have lots of support.

  7. Some great tips to remember. Revision is the name. Sounds like Sarah has some hard decisions to consider.

    Congratulations Jane, on your many awards and achievements in the writing field.

  8. Great post that covers much. I think where editors are especially worth their weight their worth in gold is when they point out places that need just a bit more explanation for them to make sense to the reader.

  9. The Good Wife looks so good and it was wonderful to hear from Jane. Her advice about revision is excellent. So much to think about- and I like how she broke things down into steps. I also like the idea of using a sticky note to mark parts that have too much description.

    Thanks, Jane! Best of luck!

  10. Wonderful post! I especially like #2: Don't panic. It's so easy to panic when you get the revision notes.

  11. Must be editing season - a very hot topic right now. Great points here, I like the best-friend editor approach - best to find out what you're doing wrong before the book goes out to the public!

  12. Nice post, great blog, following :)

    Good Luck :)

  13. Great post, Jane! I love the idea of being ruthless. I've got to do that more often!

  14. Excellent post -- reading my stuff aloud ALWAYS helps, and my wife is kind enough to listen and offer feedback. But you're right: no matter how many drafts and revisions we make prior to acceptance, there will most likely be a few more rounds of edits to follow. Somehow, we always manage to miss things, don't we?

  15. Great tips. I especially like the very last one: Keep a positive attitude.

  16. This was so great to read! Thanks so much to the both of you! Now to implement what I don't already...


Join the discussion. What do you think?