Welcome back to our journey from Book Idea to Money in the Bank! So far we have covered:
- The vital (and exciting) Step of fantasizing your idea into life inside your mind
- The importance of outlining your idea and everything you need to include in that outline
- The actual act of writing in all its glorious detail
- The soundtrack to your writing, used to elevate your scenes from hum-drum to enthralling
So today let’s explore the crucial Step of editing and revising.
A tip before we get into the nitty-gritty of editing and revising: Once you have completed your bold beautiful idea, it is time to edit that bugger. Right?
If you start editing the day after you finish typing THE END in your manuscript, you set yourself up for failure. Sorry, but that’s the truth. Avoid some amateur bad marks against your writing by taking the advice I wish I had taken when I was starting out as a young, wet-behind-the-ears, totally pumped, and ready to go writer: Set your first draft aside for at least 4 to 6 weeks and work on something else.
The point of this is to give yourself distance from your created world, so that when you return to it for the crucial execution of revising and editing, it will be with fresh eyes and an open mind.
We have a tendency to view our recently completed books as works of art. We sit back, stretch our arms, crack our knuckles and declare, like Ralphy in A Christmas Story as he’s reading his essay, ‘Wow, that’s great.’
Following a healthy span of time away, we’ll come back to look at the same manuscript as a work in progress. It has a fine solid foundation, but is in dire need of polishing.
CUT THAT BUGGER DOWN FROM BLOATED TO LEAN
Many ‘How to’ writing guides and sites will advise you to send the first draft of your manuscript out to a ‘professional’ editor.
This is another mistake. Not only will it cost you hundreds of dollars, but you’ll be missing out on a key learning point in the development of your writing career. (Some ‘professional’ editors even charge by the hour!)
Since I created Take it to the Bank for frugal-minded writers, we will not send it out, but instead do the work of editing it ourselves. With each manuscript we will improve our skills and become professionals.
Grammar and punctuation and other items of import will reveal themselves to your fresh eyes and open mind; pacing and voice, which are almost impossible to detect while writing, will appear as glaring structural weaknesses. You’ll notice all the plot holes that slipped past your attention while you were cruising through your manuscript. Too many hollow adjectives and excessive attributives will stand out as the embellishments of an amateur.
All of these negative elements can be easily fixed, now that you notice them.
FIRST LESSON OF EDITING, DOWN PAT
That’s the first step toward polishing your manuscript. To make it presentable to literary agents, who spend their days reading second and third rate drivel, you’ll need to improve your manuscript as much as possible. The following is a list of targeted elements to check, cut, or revise:
- Misspelled words. Nothing says amateur like amature speling misteaks
- Punctuation. Limit your ‘!’ to 1 or 2 per 100 pages. Check out Strunk and White; their lesson on punctuation is simple and clear
- Excessive use of adverbs and adjectives. I write this ‘adamantly’.
- Changing Tense. This one is going to be always a no-no
- Shifting PoV. Buckel thought to himself, but Johnny was thinking something else
- Uneven Tone. Is it a comedy or drama or romance novel?
In the editing revising chapter of Take it to the Bank I go into much greater detail on all the tidbits to examine during the revision process, like commonplace phrases and the overuse of comparisons and how to write descriptions to avoid the dreaded cliché monster, while also providing many helpful tips, like the one about dialogue in the opening pages and how best to use it to impress literary agents. I also give you examples from best-selling novelists and quotes from editing experts.
Once you have run your manuscript through at least 3 series of revisions, it is time to push your baby out of the nest. It is time to submit it in a Query Letter to agents, or, if you are going the indie route, to Publish it on sites like Amazon and Smashwords. We’ll explore the economical method to succeed in both of these arenas, next time, right here at buckelsbooks.