Guest Post – Madeline Sharples

I am pleased to welcome Madeline Sharples today. In honor of her visit we are giving away an ecopy of her book, Leaving the Hall Light On, an inspiring memoir about how she found peace and carried on after coping with her son, Paul’s, 7-year-struggle with bipolar disease and subsequent suicide in 1999. To be entered in the drawing leave a comment and become a follower of this blog if you aren’t already. I will post the winning name tomorrow.
Today Madeline is telling us about the revision process. 
And You Thought You Were Done: The Revision Process
My publisher advised me to revise the material in the second half of my memoir,

Leaving the Hall Light On, almost entirely when she decided to publish my book.  To revise my book I used many of the steps I learned while working as a writer-editor-manager of proposals to the U.S. Government. Here is my revision process.

1. Plan before doing. I created a revision plan based on notes from my publisher and advice from my first reader. Then I got my publisher’s buy-in.

2.Read before revising: Since I hadn’t looked at my draft for almost two years, I read it front to back with my revision plan in hand. I marked up a hard copy with a red pen and made no electronic changes to my manuscript until I was through. Wow did I find lots of things to edit, including typos, awkward sentences, repetition, and inconsistencies! I also noted where I needed to insert new material, move things around, and update anything out of date.






3. Use storyboards. I set up foam storyboards along the walls of the hall next to my office and pinned up a printed copy of each chapter as I electronically finished incorporating my first round of edits. Storyboarding allowed me see the book all at once and better spot redundancies, inconsistencies, places that needed cutting, moving, and expanding, and where each chapter best belonged. I highlighted problem areas in yellow, so I could see text I needed to revisit again.

4. Get others to review. After I completed these edits and reworked the yellow-highlighted portions, I gave three willing writer friends an electronic copy. One person did a line-by-line edit. He also found punctuation and sentence structure problems. Another friend looked at the content for repetition, inconsistencies, and writing accuracy. And the person who originally helped me create my revision plan read it again for organization problems. She made suggestions about where to move, eliminate, or combine material.

5.Stay in control. However, I made the final decisions about whether to take my editor’s notes or not. Even my Lucky Press publisher, Janice Phelps Williams said,“… Others can only offer advice. Only you can write this book.” So I reviewed each comment and fixed what I thought relevant.

6. Stay on schedule. Because I was reliant on other people’s inputs, I created a tight schedule. I allocated five months to complete everything, including incorporating my revisions and reviewer’s comments, merging the finished chapters into one document, gathering photos for the cover and body of the book, getting permissions to use quotes from other authors, and writing dust jacket copy.

7. Know when you’re finished. After incorporating review comments, I still felt the needed to make a few changes, add a few words, and edit a little more. Finally when I didn’t have any more changes or adds or deletes or reorganization ideas left in me, when my mind stopped living and breathing the book every waking moment of every day, and when I felt comfortable letting it go, I knew I was really finished.

Although Madeline Sharples fell in love with poetry and creative writing in grade school and studied journalism in college, her professional life focused on technical writing. It was not until later in life that she finally pursued her dream of being a professional writer.

Madeline co-authored Blue-Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs (New Horizon Press, 1994) and co-edited The Great American Poetry Show, Volumes 1 (Muse Media, 2004) and 2 (August 2010). Her poems have been published in two photography books The Emerging Goddess, and Intimacy (Paul Blieden, photographer), and a number of magazines. Visit her at


I’m a writer, reader, and creative. I thought by now I’d have things figured out, but I keep coming up with more questions. I think that’s okay. I’m here most mornings pondering ordinary things and the thin places where faith intersects.
  1. I am very interested in your revision process. The book sounds like it was a difficult subject to write about. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks DJan. Yes a difficult subject but I was determined to get my story out. Plus writing it helped keep me sane. Best,

  2. This is so timely for me because I’m in the process of revision my book of humor essays. Love your ideas. But what do you do when you look at it and it seems like a complete piece of crap? Ugh. Thank you for this post!

    1. Just remember that nothing you write is crap. It can always be improved — even after it’s published you’ll find things that need fixing, but you’ve got to be the champion of your work.
      Keep writing and have fun with it.
      Best, Madeline

  3. These are great tips. #3 is a brilliant idea. Most of my work until now has been short, but I’m considering taking on a bigger work that a storyboard would be very helpful for. I have just the hallway for it too. Thanks for this.

  4. I loved working with my storyboards. It’s so helpful to visualize everything rather than trying to view mulitple pages on your computer. I’m glad you have the space.
    Now I have the boards in the garage waiting for my next project.
    Thanks for your comment.
    Best, Madeline

  5. Thank you, Linda, for hosting me on your blog today. This WOW blog tour is a wonderful experience. I so much appreciate your support of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On.
    All the best to you. And good luck with your writing.

  6. Thank you Madeline and Linda for this excellent post on revision. #3 storyboarding sounds like an effective technique and I am already trying to visualize where I will put mine when I am ready! I admire your courage in writing such a painful story. It sounds like writing it was a healing process that you are now sharing with others with a message of hope. This is a very important story. Thank you both for sharing this. Kathy

  7. This is wonderful information. I’m going to save it right now as I’m beginning to put a second memoir together. Thank you so much, Madeline, for sharing. I am very interested in reading this book.

  8. Great tips on the revision process. I am such a visual person I think the storyboard idea would work well for me. Madeline’s memoir covers an important and painful topic. So many of us struggle with mental illness in our families, and because of the stigma have had to deal with it largely alone. It is great to see someone who has the courage to deal with it openly.

  9. I really enjoyed reading about this revision process. The story board idea is intriguing, and I like the idea of asking different readers to look for different things. I’m looking forward to reading the finished product.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.