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Overcoming Revision Block

Memoir Incubator writer Elizabeth Jannuzzi details how she developed revision block when drafting her memoir and how she overcame it.

By Elizabeth Jannuzzi

November 14, 2022

We’ve all heard of Writer’s Block, the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing. But have you heard of Revision Block? The condition of being unable to revise after you’ve received feedback? Well, I have, because I experienced it.

Here’s what happened:

During the  Memoir Incubator, I gave my memoir draft to two trusted readers. While they were reading my story, they updated me on their progress via Slack. After they were finished, we met on Zoom. They talked about my book while I listened. Then, they returned my manuscript with their annotated feedback, along with a thoughtful letter highlighting the strengths of my book. After receiving all this feedback, I was pumped, exhilarated even about my story. I thought: Maybe, just maybe this is a book that could get published. I was excited to use their comments to improve my manuscript.

And then …

I took a well-earned break from my story. A week passed, then another. That exhilaration faded. My story felt far away. I didn’t review their hand-written notes. I didn’t open my memoir file that lives on my laptop. The Revision Block settled in like poured cement. I was stuck.

Luckily, last night in our Zoom Incubator meeting, we discussed three revision techniques to help us approach our first edits.

  • We could compile the separate comments from each reader into one manuscript.
  • We could outline our first draft to discover ways to tighten our story using a technique from Matt Bell’s Refuse to Be Done.
  • Or we could do a bullet point reverse outline from Alan Watt’s The 90-Day Rewrite.

Our Peer Artist Leaders emphasized we should pick the approach that would work best for us.

After class, I thought, I can do this! Drawn to the outline idea. I created a Google doc to outline my story so far, making notes where I might make changes. My block is gone, and revisions have begun. Phew!

What’s next?

After I revise my memoir, I will give my manuscript to two other trusted readers to get a new round of feedback. But now I know not to take too long of a break between getting their feedback and starting my revisions. I don’t want to get Revision Block again.

Elizabeth (Liz) Jannuzzi, Project Write Now’s operations and communications manager, is a mother and writer living in New Jersey. Her work has been featured in Counter Clock, Off Topic Publishing, HerStry, and Pangyrus. She is currently working on a memoir about recovery.