How To Radically Revise Your Novel

Radical revision is a term to revise or rewrite your current draft. It’s a tool to help your reimagine your story.

This is a method I learned in school when I was working on my English degree. I’ve kept the notes these past two years because I found it to be helpful and a pretty cool method. It didn’t seem so at the time because it was homework, but I do think it helps.

How To Radically Revise Your Novel

What does radical revision do?

The point of radically revising your novel is to try something new, something different you wouldn’t normally do. Rewrite your current draft in a new way and see which one works better.

It may or may not work, but you’re experimenting, getting to know your novel and characters at a deeper level, and you’re practicing new forms of writing.

In a way, I guess you could look at this as a hardcore writing prompt.

Radical Revision Styles

1. Voice/Tone and POV Changes

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve done this before. I’ve had to rewrite my entire mystery novel manuscript to be in the viewpoint of a different character.

So, try rewriting your novel using a different voice or tone for a character if something isn’t working out. If your protagonist isn’t the right fit to be the main character, rewrite in a different point of view.

Test it out by just rewriting one scene or chapter. If it seems to work, go farther with it. It will give you a new perspective on your novel and give you more insight on your characters. You’ll learn a lot about what you’ve created, trust me.

2. Time Changes

Is your novel written in present tense? Try writing in past tense.

Write the novel using flashbacks and flashforwards, allowing plot info to sprinkle about here and there.

Tell the story backward. Start at the end and work your way towards the beginning.

Change the overall time period. See how your characters cope and change.

Changing the time and the way you convey the story can show you a lot about your plot. You’re looking more in-depth at your plot and zeroing in on certain aspects of your novel. Something that isn’t revealed until the end may be revealed earlier. And that could change the entire story, which may not be a bad thing.

3. Layout

Writing a novel? Try writing it as a script. Try writing a chapter as a poem.

It’ll give a brand new look to your manuscript allowing to challenge your mind and possibly switch around some ideas. Plus, writing scripts calls for bare-bones dialogue and quite a bit of description as direction. Switch things up and focus on one over the other and see what happens.

In Conclusion…

As I said earlier, these are kind of like big writing prompts. Still, if you have the time, and you feel as though there’s something not right with your story but can’t figure out what, try rewriting it using one of these methods.

It can’t hurt to try and you’ll learn something new about your novel and also about yourself as a writer.


I only mentioned three radical revision styles above, but the notes I have list a few more. I listed the three above because I find them to be the most challenging and straightforward way of rewriting. Still, I thought I’d add the other two methods in case anyone was interested.

  • Genre Change – Turn your story into a fairy tale, short story, recipe, or letters. Or, change the overall genre, turn it from romance to mystery to anything else.
  • Art Piece – Tell your story using pictures or write songs about it.

Is this anything you would like to try? Have you tried it already? Let me know in the comments below!

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35 thoughts on “How To Radically Revise Your Novel

  1. Oh yes this is perfect! Exactly what I needed. You’re the best Rache, thank you for starting this blog and sharing all these amazing tips. You’ve been invaluable to my writing. Really.

  2. Ah, yes. This one came up during my master’s in Writing as well. It seems to be so daunting. Right now I just have to put pen to paper and get that first draft down. Do you ever listen to Writing Excuses? I’ve found it to be very helpful regarding the rewriting and many, many other stuff.

      • It’s definitely fun as well :). Yes, it’s a podcast. It’s about writing fantasy and scifi (I’m not sure whether you write genre fiction; there is a focus on those genres, but it’s not necessarily just about that). They open up about a lot of stuff. The business, contracts, agents. How to go about revision. Romance in stories. Etc. etc. They are only 15 minutes long.

  3. Ouch. When you say ‘radical’, you really mean it! I like the idea of trying a sample before trying to go the whole hog, though. Rewriting would be a lot of hard labour gone done the drain if one decided, ‘Nah; like the first one better.’

    • It is a lot of hard work! When I did this in school I had to rewrite my short story twice with two different methods. Still, it can just be a fun exercise if something doesn’t seem right. Like I said, start with just a scene or chapter and see where it takes you. This is also a great way to get rid of writer’s block just to loosen those creative thoughts. 🙂

  4. Reblogged this on Wind Eggs and commented:
    Rachel Poli offers writers tips for radically rewriting novels you can’t nail down. These suggestions might seem to ask a lot of you, but two of my published novels contain maybe 50 of the pages in their first drafts. You might want to consider these strategies.

  5. I’m struggling with this right now, attempting to make my book better by putting the things I’m constantly learning into practice. It’s daunting, and at times I want to give up, but your blog gives me hope that I’m not wasting my time.

    • You are certainly not wasting your time! First drafts are never good and you have to experiment with it. It’s a fun learning experience. 🙂

  6. These are really fun ideas, and while I don’t know about rewriting my whole book, it’s great to have some help for those places where I’m stuck. I could really use some of these ideas then.

    • In my case, sometimes rewriting the whole book is necessary. Still, they’re fun to try with bits and pieces of your novel. Have fun if you decide to do any of them. 🙂

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