In our last blog post, Danielle spoke a bit about not resting on your laurels after finishing a novel. I thought that, since it’s just after NaNoWriMo, now would be a good time to talk about the next step–revising!
Sometimes people skip over the revising step–that is always a mistake. Revising may not seem like as much fun as writing, but it’s super important. Try to think of revisions as a time to build up, to make things better instead of a sad time between creative periods. As an agent, I don’t want to send writers who can’t revise and edit to publishing houses because I know they will have to. For example, I usually give my clients notes, and then the acquiring editor goes through several rounds, then the copy editor takes a crack at it, and finally the proofreader. Get used to reading your work multiple times. Don’t be precious about changing things (you can always change it back).
Here are three steps, I often suggest writers take:
1. Get Fresh Eyes. Try to look at the novel as if it were not yours. Some people find it easiest to put the novel away for a time before they look at it critically. I often suggest reading the book aloud, printing it out, or putting the file on your ereader. These are tricks to force your brain to look at it differently than you do when you’re writing at your keyboard. Do whatever you need to! You can also enlist the help of lovely first readers or critique partners. Try looking for writing groups in your area or on websites like CP Seek, if you don’t already have critique partners.
2. Think Macro. The proofreading stage is the last step before publication for a reason. Don’t get bogged down in details too early on. Now that you’ve written your novel you need to think about its place in the larger world. How does it fit in with other books in its genre? Who is the audience? What is the theme? When you revise, you want to always have that stuff in the back of your head so that each scene builds on it. In the first draft, you get the plot sketched out but now, as you revise, you want to find ways to make more connections, add more layers and put more heft behind your words. It’s not just about fixing spelling. It’s about taking a good book and making it better.
3. Have Goals. It’s good to set achievable goals when you’re revising. This can go hand-in-hand with thinking macro, but if you know–for example–that your book is longer than the average word count for its genre, you can decide how many words you need to cut and reward yourself when you reach your goal. (Or if your book is too short, you know you need to add detail. Jennifer Laughran had a good post on word counts here, for those who are curious.) Goals are best when they are measurable, like word count or number of pages edited. That kind of thing can keep you revising when you need the push to do just a little bit more.
Those are my tips. What is the best advice you’ve received on revising?