August 22, 2009

Revising Tips - Everything A Writer Needs to Know About Editing

Revising a manuscript is both fun and tedious. It's fun because you get to transform your manuscript, your baby, into something wonderful. Your story becomes a creative work.

Besides that, going back and editing your manuscript before submission is necessary.

It's mandatory. Trust me.

When an agent says they want a polished, complete novel, they mean it. This means you go through your book (that you've printed out!) and check grammar, spelling, and punctuation ON TOP OF making sure your characters develop nicely, and your secondary characters are really needed, your pacing is spot on, your plot doesn't sag, your story progresses logically.... the list seems endless.

And that's why it's tedious. There's so much you need to worry about.
Some writers go through the manuscript eight or nine times or MORE. Each time, they edit for something different. It works for some people. Not for me. By the time I've read the same story twice, I want to be done with it, and every edit after that point is nearly useless.

I've tried the "edit as you go" method, but I got so sick of reading my first two chapters that I wasn't able to look at them with a critical eye any more. (That's another reason why you don't want to edit more times than you have to -- you tend to read over more mistakes when you know what's coming.)

The fewer times you have to read a paragraph, the more ideas will come and the more mistakes you'll see. I know it doesn't make sense, but it's proven true in my writing countless times. If I read chapter 1 for the first time after writing it (and I haven't seen it for at least a couple of weeks), I catch maybe 85-90% of the mistakes in it. My muse throws out a couple of ideas for better character development and subplots, which I may or may not use. It's also easier for me to step back from the story and see it from a reader's perspective, rather than the creator's perspective.

If I read that same chapter a second time, I may catch 50-60% of the remaining mistakes. After that, I'll be lucky to find any problems with the manuscript. I'm no longer an objective reader. That's where the help comes in. Writing groups, friends, anyone you trust who would be good at editing should find 85-90% of the remaining problems with your work. (Note: they may find "problems" with things that are just fine. Use discretion when accepting help.)

In the second part of my series on revising, I'll give you a variety of opinions on the subject -- a list of articles that I've found helpful.

1 comment:

Janine said...

I totally agree with the 'getting sick of re-reading' problem. The AutoCrit Editing Wizard is a great resource for this problem.

It reads through the manuscript and finds the problems - saves a couple of reads and means the work is still fresh when I NEED to do a read-thru.

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