Look to Michelangelo for the best advice on revising your manuscript. Apparently, when asked how he had sculpted his masterpiece of a sculpture – The David, he said, “I looked at the stone and removed all that not The David.”
Sound advice we can use in revising our manuscripts by taking out everything that is not meant to be in there.
Where to begin?
I find that having a synopsis actually helps your revision because you can see your plot arc and know whether you have a solid story or not. Give the manuscript one good read and identify the main points in order to refresh your memory. It may be your story but it’s surprising how much you do forget.
Hook, Line and Sinker
Are you sure your opening paragraph, your first page—indeed, your first chapter captures the reader’s imagination and pulls them into the story? If you do nothing else, make sure this is as polished as it can be. If it doesn’t grab you, it’s not going to grab anyone else.
I’m assuming by now you have made sure that the individuals who populate your novel behave according to their character. This is something you should have worked on previously. With revision, you want to pick out the most blatant faults and make sure they’re all tidied up.
Does your story make sense? This is particularly true if you are creating your own world as in fantasy or historical fiction. In fantasy, your world has to have rules and you must abide by them. In historical fiction, your story must be correct according to history. You can take liberties with certain aspects as whether a historical figure visited a certain place or said something to a particular person. But, for example, you can’t change when the first World War took place or which side won.
Go over your words with the proverbial fine toothcomb and cull words that are non-essential. Here’s where you’re going to remove phrases like: at this point in time, actually, really … excess adverbs and any clichés you can spot.
This is also the time to make sure that your language matches your time period and your genre. For ex: the 50-year-old person in your book would not say “Yo, bro – whas up?” That might be a bit of an exaggeration but you get the picture.
Check whether your sentences are too long. If they are, now’s the time to break them into two and re-write them so they are easier to follow.
Shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs and some white space helps people to read more easily and prevents eye fatigue. Check for repetition as well. You want a happy reader, not a bored one
With a spell-checker, thesaurus and dictionary at your fingertips, there is absolutely no excuse for wrong spellings, poor grammar and insipid words. Check punctuation and capitalizations as well.
Make sure your pronouns are clear. Do you know which he or she you are referring to? Check dialogue tags; check when there are no dialogue tags – is it clear who is talking?
And of course ensure that you are writing in the active voice. Delete or re-word any passive scenes or sentences.
Once your manuscript is accepted, the Publisher will have a copy editor but in order to get to that stage your manuscript needs to be in the best condition it can possibly be.
2016 Spring Writing Classes for Beginners and Advanced
Creative Writing 101 – Tues. afternoons April 12 – June 28 in Oakville
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Crafting Your Novel – Thurs. afternoons April 14 – June 30 in Oakville
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