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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Your Key to a Great Book: Developing a Solid Revision Process

I thought I'd spend my space here talking about something near and dear to my heart: revision. Stop screaming and please don't hit the close button before hearing me out. A great number of the posts in this blog center on the all important topic of branding and marketing--two things that I struggle (unsuccessfully) to understand. I try to read the posts quickly in order to get the info inside my brain in advance of my eyes glazing over and drool dripping from my slack and uncomprehending mouth. I promise you, I try to fathom how to do the things the writers explain patiently and pleasantly. The problem is that somewhere between the black print and my mind, the post gets lost in translation.

So, now you know that I am a complete idiot when it comes to promoting myself and my work. I am not, however, completely without gifts. I am adapt at listening to constructive criticism and cleaning up a messy first draft. With that in mind, I want to share with you some pointers on how to revise your work. In my opinion, accepting constructive criticism can't be taught, you either can or can't and I'm not going to waste your time with that.

Revision, on the other hand, is a learned skill. I know this because I teach burgeoning writers the best ways to go about the revision process. The most important thing to know about the art of revision is to let your newly completed ms stew for awhile. I understand how tempting it is to do a rush revision immediately after finishing your first draft so you can press that submit or publish button, but you do yourself no favors rushing. When it comes to producing a stellar manuscript, time is definitely your best friend.

I recommend waiting a month before beginning to revise. Doing this allows that newly complete book high to fade away and be replaced by a calmer, more objective attitude, which is what is needed for good revisions. After its month of hibernation, your book is now ready to be revised. Start with reading the ms slowly, checking for inconsistencies and just plain messiness. Spend as long as you want doing this, but don't get stuck on the first pages ( a problem I'm guilty of). Read and revise the entire document.

Once you're satisfied that that the ms is what you want it to be, set it aside for a few days to let it rest. Like bread, letting it rest allows your book to rise to the next level (sorry for the sad metaphor, it seems apt). Once it's rested a few days, print the entire ms and with pen in hand, read it aloud, slowly and carefully. I can't tell you why this works, it just does. Once you've read it through, make the changes you've painstakingly noted on the document. Rinse and repeat as necessary. I must warn you though to not get stuck in never-ending revision because nothing is perfect. You need to know when your ms is as good as it can get. At this point, send it to a professional editor (either with your publisher, or if you don't have a publisher, pay someone to edit - and don't have a relative or friend do this. The editor must be someone who doesn't love or even like you all that much.)

Once it's been edited, you're free to submit or publish feeling proud that you've created the best book you can. And for those of you grumbling about what a pain all this work is, I understand how you feel, but we have only ourselves to blame for choosing to be writers.

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