Crystal Kamm

Written by

Crystal Kamm

10 July 2021

Writing Tips

Revising your Novel: Playing in the Sandbox

Before I wrote my novel, I scoured the internet searching for facts about how to write a novel. I got all the books, I took all the seminars, and I attended all the events (pre-pandemic). I learned a lot about how to get started, how to write a first draft, and at the end, how to find a publisher. But all of these educational materials skipped one very important stage: Revising your novel.

Now that I have written my novel and made it through that writing process, I have some things to share about how the process of revising your novel works.

First, have you ever heard this quote?

I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

Shannon Hale

I never understood what this quote meant before I began working on my novel because I never understood what came after a first draft. Many articles, videos, classes, etc. about writing fail to explain the drafting process. Here are the steps of revising your novel as I see them.

How to write a novel

Step 1: Plan

Don’t skip this step. I know many writers choose to, believing instead that a story comes from pure inspiration. While elements of the story may be inspired, the whole thing will not stand on inspiration alone. The good news is that planning doesn’t have to be anything crazy. I recommend writing down your main story milestones just so you can keep in mind where you’re headed as you write. Trust me, writing a first draft can sometimes feel like slogging through a swamp. It’s super easy to lose your way and forget what you came here for. A plan is like a map to keep you focused on your goals.

Step 2: Write

Some writers say you should write your first draft in one sitting, but let’s be honest, if you’re writing a book-length novel that’s unreasonable. My first draft, handwritten, took me about 3 months to complete between juggling work and family responsibilities. I recommend writing every day and just keep moving forward. Even keep a second notebook or document for notes so you don’t start writing out of order. For example, just because you have a great idea for chapter 400, you should not skip ahead because you need to build the stuff that happens before that.


Novlr helps with revising your novel

Helpful Tip: The Novlr writing tool has a great “Notes” feature located in the left-hand drawer of your document where your chapters.

This is a great place to put your planning and those “I just thought of this but can’t use it right now” notes.


Step 3: Plan

Wait, didn’t we already say this? Well, yes, but now that you have a whole first draft, it’s time to start planning again! You have the whole sandbox filled with sand and it’s time to start figuring out how to best structure that sandcastle, so to speak.

Step 4: Write

Wait a minute, is she pranking me? No, I absolutely am not. It’s true, this process is repetitive and constantly cycles between planning and writing. As you go, you will have to do less and less of it as you reach nearer to the finished product, but ultimately, you will keep repeating this process until you’re done.


Does this information help or is this something you already know? I didn’t really understand this, not truly, until I began writing my own novel, so it’s my hope that I can help other writers with this knowledge. Let me know whether this is helpful or what you would add for others writers in the comment.