It doesn’t matter if you write short stories, novels, poetry, or blog posts…if you’re a writer, one single word makes you place your head in your hands and groan: Revision.
You’ve written your manuscript, and now it’s time to get it ready for publication. If you have an agent, great! They’ll help you along the process and get your piece polished and ready for publishers.
If, like the rest of us, you’re still searching for representation, the revision stage can be daunting.
Where do you begin? When is enough…well…enough?
There are stages.
*Deep, Star Trek narrator voice* In the beginning…*back to me* of my writing endeavors, I couldn’t write more than a chapter at a time before hungrily re-reading my work.
I analyzed, I spell-checked, I re-worded, and re-wrote as I went without allowing a ‘resting’ period.
Like a good steak, you need to allow your manuscript to rest, giving it a few weeks to settle in the wake of the first draft. It’s important. Swallow your impatience. It will wait for you.
Like I said, I’ve since learned my lesson.
Revising in the moment stunted my creative process. I would constantly lose sight of what was to come, focusing only on the story that I had already written, and not allowing the plot to develop on it’s own.
When a new thought sprang to mind, anxiety would overcome my process and I would obsess over changing x, y, and z in what I had already written in order to accommodate my latest plot twist.
This time around, I forced myself to do something that caused even more anxiety…I wrote a first draft without revising. Well…almost. I made it to 65,000-ish words before I decided to begin the revision stage. All that’s left is the grand finale…probably another 15,000 words, give or take.
Everyone’s process is totally different, but I found that almost writing that entire first draft in one shot, I was able to really develop the plot into something special. I allowed myself to spit it all out, changing as I went, and I’m finding it easier to revise.
So…after all that…what are the stages of revision? It doesn’t matter what you’re writing, or what your end-game is (whether one of the Big-recently-Six-but-now-Five publishers, or self publishing through Amazon etc), here is my own, personal check list of stages…
- Second Draft
- Grammar Check
- Read Through
- Beta Readers
- Final Draft
Honestly, if I have to put spell check on the list…we probably wouldn’t get along. So, spell check is a given after the first draft stage.
This is exactly what it sounds like. Going line by line, paragraph by paragraph, and chapter by chapter until you reach ‘The End’.
Fix the following:
- Plot Holes
- Overused phrases
- Strange syntax
- Ensure that each thought flows into the next to ensure a seamless reading experience.
Easier said than done…believe it or not. There are a few great FREE resources online that will help tremendously. Even the best of us have trouble with possessive cases! If you’re a grammar whiz, then you’ll probably end up combining stages 1 and 2.
Allow your second draft to rest for a few weeks…preferably a month (like the first draft)…before reading through.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- If your book was a movie, could you ‘see’ what’s happening?
- Have you fallen victim to the fatal ‘info-dump’?
- Does your story flow?
- Is it a page turner?
If so, you’re ready to move on to the next stage. If not, allow your manuscript to rest another few weeks before embarking on a third draft.
You think you have a winner, but you need other people to read it to know for sure.
Here are some HELL no’s when it comes to Beta Readers…
- Your mother should never be a beta reader (or sister, or father etc.). Sorry, but close family will never tell you the truth. They know how you have struggled, they’ve seen you sweat, and cry, and drink coffee like a fiend in the hopes of realizing your dreams…see where I’m going here?
- Your best friend can’t be a beta reader…for the same reasons above.
- Someone that reads…say…historical fiction, might not be the best audience for your sci-fi masterpiece.
- Never, EVER, have the initial post-reading interaction in a face-to-face environment. Why? Because you WILL be upset. You’re going to be all: “But that’s how she is, I mean, didn’t you ‘get’ that she’s sarcastic?” Apparently not…and that’s why we need to have beta readers. We know the ‘whys’. We know the ‘hows’. We know our stories inside out and backwards. But we have to convey all that…so if your beta readers are telling you something, you HAVE to listen. You failed to convey a message. Take notes.
Here are some hell YES’s when it comes to Beta Readers…
- Join online forums and social media sites where you can build relationships with impartial readers that will give you honest feedback
- Choose readers that would want to read your book…in other words, if you’re writing a thriller, choose readers that like thrillers.
- Always have your beta readers send their post-reading thoughts/notes/critiques via e-mail…that way you can scream, throw things, and pull your hair out in private, without terrifying your poor readers.
- After number 3 happens…STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER AND RESIST THE URGE TO IMMEDIATELY REPLY.
- Sit on your beta reader’s thoughts for a few days, and then re-open their e-mail. Are they right? They probably are. Unless the advice is something along the lines of: So, instead of a crazed serial killer, maybe it could be an alien race conducting experiments…then they’re probably right. Plot twists are suggestions…plot overhauls are not constructive.
This is exactly what it sounds like. The. FINAL. Draft. This is it. You take the constructive elements of your beta readers critique, mull over your work, and go through it one more time with a fresh perspective. Then…? You’re done!
And onto the dreaded query…*cue terrifying Halloween music!*
The idea for today’s blog came from a conversation with one of my Twitter followers, so please feel free to reach out to me with your thoughts and wishes for future posts.
Until next time, you can find me tweeting nonsense on the Twittersphere… @Maria_Tureaud