Thursday, September 29, 2011

10 Mostly Sane Revision Essentials

Revision essentials—every writer has them. What are mine? Let's see...maybe a frozen fruity beverage, chips and salsa, a hotel pool with rafts…

Oh, CURSES. Those are my relaxation essentials.

Here are my *actual* revision essentials (and really, I’ve been doing enough revisions lately that I should have these puppies DOWN):

1) Liquid energy.

I actually can’t drink coffee. That much caffeine all at once makes me feel like I’ve been zig-zagged around a mountain road in a monster truck without A/C while trying to scrutinize a teensy tiny map. Blech. The key for me is a low but consistent amount, to avoid those nausea-inducing highs or early afternoon crashes. Iced-tea dosing—it’s a science, people!

2) Kid-free space

I’m not the most efficient multi-tasker. The mere thought of trying to revise when my kids are nearby (“Mom, are nano-suits real, and if so, can I have one for Christmas?” or “Mommy, can you help me find another tutu to put on Fergie?”*) makes me twitchy. While I enjoy revising in public places like Starbucks or Panera, I don’t actually want to KNOW any of the people (or dogs) around me.

*Fergie is one of our Rhodesian Ridgebacks. The one who begrudgingly lets my 3-yr-old dress her up and then gives me the guilt-trip eyes over it.

3) Internet.

Mainly, so I can send panicky messages to my writer friends.** Revisions typically inspire me to rattle off oodles of these.

**Disclaimer: Okay, so it’s possible I peek at youtube or check in on my private forums once in a lavender and pink striped moon. Which is the blue moon’s much much rarer cousin. Ahem. Moving on now.

4) Hard copy of my manuscript.

5) Athletic shorts, a sports bra, and smelly old shoes.

Revisions in general are stressful enough, but revisions under deadline? Meep! I try to alleviate some of that angst by running regularly. (Also, since I tend to eat more when I revise, it’s kind of a necessity. At least if I plan on my pre-revision jeans also being my post-revision jeans.)

6) Chinese food.

I have no idea why, but I. Must. Eat. Chinese. Food while I revise. Like, sometimes five nights in a row, for lunch and dinner. Breakfast. Whether it’s Panda Express or something fancier (it’s usually Panda Express), I crave the snot out of it.***

***Disclaimer: That’s just a saying. I actually prefer my Chinese food snot-free.

7) Melatonin.

I know some of you crazypants writers can function on 3 or 4 hours of sleep, but pretty much everyone in my house hides when I get less than 6 hours. Including the dogs. Plus, in my case, sleep-deprived brain = really crappy revisions, so I take melatonin about a half hour before bed to ensure I get a decent night’s rest. Which is challenging to do when five billion different scenarios of how to rework the end of chapter six are chasing themselves through my head.

8) Sanity Pills.

I’ve yet to find these, so I force myself to make do with M&M’s. Sacrifices, sacrifices.

9) A laundry service.

This is more like a wishlist item. Trust me: if you've ever been downwind of me during a big revision stint, you know just how essential it is.

10) A reward system.

Small to begin with (if I finish x pages, I can watch one episode of Glee or a Veronica Mars rerun) and then larger for later…which brings us back to that frozen fruity beverage, chips and salsa, and a hotel pool with rafts…

Debra Driza is the debut author of MILA 2.0, a “Bourne Identity” type thriller about a teenage girl whose attempt to fit in at her new school is complicated when she discovers she’s an android with human emotions and a fugitive from the U.S. government. Coming Winter 2013 from HarperCollins.


  1. Yay for snot-free Chinese food! Though, with kids around, sometimes you have to take what you can get :). Thanks for the list, I'll file them away for when I'm in revision mode. If you ever find sanity pills, let me know.

  2. Erin, I will definitely share the wealth if I find those pills!! LOL at taking what you can get w/kids! So true, so true....

  3. Oooh. I like mini butterfingers, m&ms, and cherry sours...wait. Revising isn't only a food-based activity? I'm a firm believer that the quality of your chocolate directly relates to the quality of your work.

    Nice post!

  4. Janine, it's TOTALLY a food-based activity for me, too--and I think for many writers! I'm liking your chocolate theory....

  5. Great post! And coffee makes me feel the same way! Tea FTW!

  6. Rachael--so glad I'm not the only one! I feel like people look at me weird when I tell them I don't drink coffee! (or, maybe they look at me weird for other reasons. Hmmm....)

  7. I'm definitely a coffee person, but I love the rest of this list! Especially the snot-free Chinese. I'm crazily into Mexican when I revise, so I'm glad someone else has random food cravings :)

  8. Ooooh, Mexican---that's probably my next biggest craving after Chinese! (and for the record, I prefer my Mexican food snot-free as well!)

  9. What a great post Deb! Glad to know that someone else loves Chinese as much as I do :D Also, I have a dog named Fergie too but she is a tiny 8 lb Min Pin

  10. Erica--yay for another Fergie! Mini Pins are sooo cute (but not quite sturdy enough for my daughter...although, I bet one would look awfully cute in a tutu =)

  11. Sanity pills. I. Need. These. Desperately. I bet we could make a fortune with them. I love your relaxation techniques.