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Revision Fridays: Revision Processes for Short Stories and Novels

I’ve written about my writing path before, and other than a few tweaks here and there, it remains the same.

Recently, I’ve been trying to look at my old stories, some of which have received critiques. I’m taking a fresh look at them, and wondering whether the process of revising short stories would also work for a novel.

I’ve not finished a novel yet, but I read about the process of novelists, the most detailed so far being by Natalie at Between Fact and Fiction.

This one scared me a little because the process seemed different to the one I’m used to so far, but completely suitable for an ungainly thing like a novel WIP.

Do you write short stories as well as novels? If yes, are your revision processes for both same or different?

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • phatichar says:

    Goodness, this post sounds so much like me. Yes, the process of revising a shortie and a novel is different, I've come to realize.

    Still trying to figure it out, though.

  • Damyanti says:

    Thanks everyone for the lovely, detailed comments :). And Eric, you're spot on, I have to do it to learn how to do it!

  • For me, the revision process is almost the same except the time for revising a novels is much longer. Also, rarely do I do complete re-writes for my shorts.

  • Donna Hole says:

    I'm with Eric; I write from a premise, but keep on going even when I deviate. That's what editing/revision is for.

    I do quite a bit of editing during writing though. I start each session with re-reading the previous session, then edit as needed or leave myself notes that will catch my eye when I finish writing and go back to read the whole thing.

    For short stories, the process is about the same, but I spend more time actually writing on the idea than rereading.

    I write scene by scene, chapter by chapter, until all the character and story plots come together at the climax. I always know how/when a story ends; its just getting there that is a challenge.

    The only real difference between a novel and a short story is word count. All the elements of good story telling is the same, so my editing process is basically the same.


  • Short v. Novel is the difference between a scene and a movie, a song and a musical, a pitch and a game, a kiss and a honeymoon.

    Here's the thing, though — you get good at any of that by doing it over and again.

    Write a book. Write another book. Write another and another.

    That, my dear, is the onliest way in the world to find out what your method is for writing a novel.

    Speculation won't get you there. Write a few novels. Then you'll understand what it takes to get you there.

    On a more constructive and less philosophical note, for novels I begin with a basic story premise, usually a title, and write everything about it I can think of. I'm a pantser.

    Then, when it's done, I edit it and add/delete scenes and characters as needed.

    I keep doing this until someone says stop, or until I can't take it anymore.

    For a short story, I'll begin with the same thing, a title and a premise, and write all I can think of on this. When it's done, I edit and add/delete scenes, maybe even nuke the whole story and start fresh, and keep doing this until I can't take it anymore.

    Those are the same thing, huh, just one takes a heck of a lot longer!

    – Eric

  • Summer Ross says:

    My revision process is different for a novel than short stories. Ina novel every thing has to pan out and do it just so, but in short stories I do not have to look at timelines as much and several other elements that go into a novel.