Monday, July 18, 2011

The Joy of Revision

Books aren't written—they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it.
—Michael Crichton

So you received a rejection notice from a Wild Rose Press editor. She was encouraging but firm about certain changes you need to make to your story. You take a few weeks to go over the manuscript, revising it with an eye to her suggestions, and now you’re thinking about sending it back to the editor for another look.

But how do you know when you’ve done enough? It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time and patience it takes to revise a manuscript. Cosmetic changes aren’t enough—revision calls for heavy lifting. So here are some questions to ask yourself as you evaluate your manuscript (questions adapted from Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway) along with links to helpful articles in our Greenhouse:

  1. Is the story about something? Is there conflict? Are your characters interesting people who have defined goals? Do those characters change in some way, from the beginning to the end? GMC: Conflict

  2. Does the story begin with a hook? Did you give the reader a reason to be interested in the story? Is there tension in your story and is that tension apparent on the very first page? Grabbing the Reader on the First Page

  3. Are your characters real or do they seem more like stereotypes? Are their emotions clichéd? Building Believable Characters

  4. Does the story make sense? Do you show the reader enough to make the setting and your story clear? Bringing in the Senses

  5. Have you avoided overwriting? Kept your characters’ emotions from being overwrought? Ways to Make Your Writing Stronger

  6. Have you pared your story down to the essentials? Does every scene function to both move the story forward and show the reader something about the characters? Self-editing for the Flabby Writer

Piece of cake, right? So how do you know when you’ve done enough? Try doing a comparison between the original version and your revised version using MS Word’s Compare feature. You should see significant changes on every page—if not, time to get back to work. Good luck!

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