Part Three: Revise
Yes, this is a dreaded word when it comes to writing. You've spent hours and days fighting to get thousands of words onto the pages of your book/article/whatever. Hopefully, you're excited about what you've written. But now you have to go back and change things.
Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.
Revise: Big Picture
When you were in the writing stage, did a certain scene feel out of place? Do you think you could strengthen the story if you added a plot element?
During your revisions, you'll want to make several big picture sweeps through your manuscript. This will be a start-at-the-beginning and don't-stop-until-the-end kind of project. Don't get bogged down in these revisions. If there's a detail you can't work out, make a note for yourself and then come back to it. Later. After you're done with the big picture.
In a big picture revision, look for things like:
- Character inconsistencies: Did your normally cheerful character snap at another character for no reason? Bad idea. Either give the character a reason for his or her action or change the action.
- Weak plot: If you aren't even buying into certain aspects of your plot, think about adjusting them. Cliche plot element? Try to fix it.
- Easy details: I'm not suggesting you ignore details in a big picture revision. Try to focus on the structure and key elements of your manuscript during this revision, but if you see a typo ... please, just fix it now.
In a detail revision, try to fix:
- Typos and Grammatical Errors: Don't expect someone else to fix your problems for you. Agents and editors aren't interested in doing things you should have done yourself.
- "Research Details": I didn't really know what to call these, so I'll have to explain. I would call anything you have to research a "research detail." In a novel I wrote, I had a character in juvenile corrections. I had to do some research to make sure I was using the correct terminology and I was being accurate to the scenario I had created. If you wrote a scene and were making up terms or historical details or the like, go back now and research. Don't slack off here!
- All the "Ick": Do you ever write a scene and just not like it? Is the description of the landscape too long (if you're asking this question, the answer might be "yes," by the way)? Is the dialogue forced? Take the time to wrestle with the details that don't flow correctly.
Revise: However Works for You
Though I think it's best to get your main story under control before getting to the details, you may think a detail revision needs to be done first. You might want to do three big-picture runs before ever touching the details. You might do a little bit of each all at once.
Revise in the way that works for you. Read agent blogs (have I mentioned I love those?) when they talk about revising. Find a plan, and stick with it. Revising isn't easy, but it can be more exciting than you'd dreamed to make a tricky scene work or see some of the messy parts of your book pull together. Your hard work in revising will prepare you for the fourth and final main step of pursuing writing: Representing.
(Part four will come soon ... I promise!!!)