Editing and Revising your Manuscript- excerpt from,
“Finish that Manuscript You Started”
You should have a complete rough draft at this point in the writing process. Yes, it is undoubtedly messy, filled with run-on sentences, incomplete thoughts, missing words, lacking better phrasing and more. Relax. It means you focused on what you were supposed to, getting the story on paper. Now that you have the rough draft of your manuscript, it is time to go back and fill in gaps, missing pieces, and correct inconsistencies.
STEP ONE: Start from the beginning. Fill in the red notes you left at the beginning of each chapter, add more descriptive words and remove unnecessary dialogue and/or descriptors. Anything that doesn’t add to the storyline or advance the plot is considered unnecessary. (FYI: this is better explained in the book)
STEP TWO: Focus on one character at a time, and attempt to make the dialogue distinct to where the reader knows whose speaking without you having to acknowledge them. Try to create key words/ phrases for each character. Perhaps, one character speaks in slang or broken English or another speaks in southern dialect. Ensure their diction is consistent throughout the story.
STEP THREE: Play with words. This is the time to get out the thesaurus and dictionary. Words are everything. In addition, remember your audience as well. If you are writing a children’s book, I wouldn’t use words like panglossian, and lassitude. Word document doesn’t recognize panglossian as a word, but it is, which is more reason not to use it in a children’s book unless you are defining it.
STEP FOUR: Line edit the manuscript in intervals. I usually do ten chapters at a time with this. However, if you have long chapters you may want to do five. Print out ten chapters at a time, read through it, making changes along the way. Go back and edit those changes, and then move on to the next ten chapters. In addition, start looking for your (Beta Readers)
STEP FIVE: Take a break. This is the time to step away from the story and go read someone else’s work. Not only will it give you fresh eyes once you return, but you may acquire an idea or have an epiphany that will enhance your storyline.
STEP SIX: While on break, build a fan club. Enlist your beta readers, people who are willing to read at least the first 50 pages of your manuscript and a few who will read in its entirety. Give them adequate time. You’ll be surprised the key points and direction that come with having someone else’s eyes on your work. However, don’t be discouraged by criticism and always remain true to yourself in the process. Try to find people who aren’t close to you read your work. Join a local writing critique group or if you have a blog, ask your readers.
STEP SEVEN: Make relevant and key changes using the suggestions from your Beta readers. Remember, you don’t have to take every suggestion to heart. This is your story. However, if more than one reader makes the same or similar suggestions… change it.
STEP EIGHT: Line Edit one chapter at a time. There are great sites on how to do this. I suggest Googling the term line edit. This is the time to remove redundancies etc. In addition, I’ve learned the delete button is your friend. If you find a great line you love, but it doesn’t fit the flow of the paragraph and doesn’t add to the storyline, delete it. Reread the paragraph. You’ll be surprised to find it reads better without it.
STEP NINE: Take another break. Enlist Beta Readers again. Perhaps, some fresh eyes will do too and then repeat steps seven and eight.
STEP TEN: Read the entire manuscript from beginning to finish in minimal amount of sittings as possible. If it’s short, read it in one sitting. I suggest, printing the story out and having a red pen on hand, just in case. By this time, you shouldn’t have many errors. After this read, you should have a complete manuscript. Now you’re ready to hire an editor or find an agent. However, I’ve heard you have more success with agents when your manuscript has seen an editor first. Just a thought.
Writers Conference Tips: The Pitch, The Query, The Manuscript, The Experience
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