Posts Tagged ‘revisions’

Sometimes I get so caught up in the details of a particular scene, or involved with developing one character, that I lose sight of the big picture.

Losing My Perspective

This is especially frustrating when writing the first draft since events later on may change portions of what I’ve already written. It’s tempting to go back and revise earlier chapters or scenes to take into account things that happen later, but in most cases this isn’t the best approach for a first draft. You can lose momentum, or you may come up with an idea you like better later down the line–meaning you have to revise the beginning yet again. One way to minimize this problem is to put off the editing process until the entire story is down on paper.

Get the bare bones of the story down before you start editing, then set it aside for a while. When you go back to it, you’ll be able to read it more objectively and clearly see errors or plot holes in what you’ve written. Knowing how everything fits together will help you layer in details, foreshadow events, leave clues, develop subplots, and clarify what’s going on.



The Big Picture


Do you wait until the first draft is complete to make major revisions, or revise as you go? How do you keep track of things that you change later in the story, such as details about the backstory, or name changes? At what point do you start checking the grammar and punctuation?


Read Full Post »

After completing your rough draft and revising it until you’re satisfied with the basic structure and content, it’s time to start polishing it for submission.

At this stage you may want to get someone else’s input on your work. Some people have critique partners look over their manuscripts, but even readers who aren’t writers can offer useful insights into problems with clarity, pacing, characterization, or awkward sentences.

This is also the time to review your manuscript for:

1. Errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

Don’t rely on the spell check function of your word processor as it isn’t always right. Words that sound the same but are spelled differently (homophones) are easy to overlook when editing.

Make sure you’re following the appropriate style guide for the publisher you’re targeting. Agent Rachelle Gardner suggests making an Editorial Style Sheet to help keep track of pertinent details that an editor will want to know about your manuscript.


2. Smooth transitions between paragraphs and scenes.

Make sure your point of view changes are clearly indicated.

Try to have a cliffhanger or unanswered question at the end of each chapter to entice people to keep reading.

3. Correct format and headers.

Using the proper manuscript format is essential to make your writing look professional. In the absence of specific guidelines, use a standard format: double spacing for hard copies, 1 inch margins, black Courier or Times New Roman 12 point font, headers with last name, title, and page number. Don’t forget a cover page. (See my post on manuscript formatting.)

Each manuscript will have special needs. There are many resources available on line and in books to help you figure out what’s best for yours. Many people also pay free-lance editors, or book doctors, to help them get their work ready to submit. If you decide to hire an editor, be sure to check their background and references before entering into a contract with them.


What are the final steps you take to prepare your manuscript for submission to an agent or editor? Do you have any tips to share about revising or polishing a manuscript? What type of feedback do you ask for from friends, family, or critique partners?

Read Full Post »

I’m back with the second post in my series on revising manuscripts. There are lots of books and online sites that go into greater depth, but these are some ideas I use as general guidelines for my revision process.

1. After you finish the first draft of your manuscript, it’s best to set it aside for a few days, weeks, or months so you can tackle the revisions with a clear mind. When you begin the task of editing, I suggest that you read the whole thing from beginning to end before making major changes in order to give you a sense of how the story fits together. It will help you identify problem areas and notice inconsistencies.

2. By the time you’ve finished the first draft, you should know what the book is about (plot), and the idea you want the reader to take away from reading it (theme). You’ll need to give that information to an agent or editor anyway, so write it down before you start making changes. Use it as a guide to help decide what needs to be cut, or added, to your story.

3. Know what market you’re writing for so you can make sure the manuscript will meet any special requirements for word count or content. For example, if your rough draft is 150,000 words and you’re writing a genre romance, you know you have a lot of cutting to do. If it’s only 30,000 words, you’ll need to add thousands more.

4. Go through the rough draft and jot down a few sentences about each chapter. This will help you make sure the scenes and chapters are organized the way you want them, and you’ll see where you need to make changes. These notes will also be helpful when you write your synopsis.

5. Make sure all story threads are tied up in a way that fits the story. Add layers of backstory, characterization, and action that will give depth to the plot and clarify what’s going on. Remove any scenes that are confusing or don’t serve a valid purpose.

6. Be sure that you’ve been consistent when describing physical attributes; actions are appropriate for each character’s personality; and the dialog is fitting for the person’s age and educational background, as well as the time period and setting.

Some people will rewrite their story several times while others may only write a couple of drafts. The number of revisions isn’t as important as the quality of them. No story will be perfect—someone will always find something to criticize about it. Do the best you can with your revisions, ask someone you trust to take a look at it, and then polish your manuscript before sending it out.


Do you have any tips for revising a manuscript? What method of keeping track of what needs to be changed do you use as you review your writing, or do you change everything as soon as you notice something doesn’t sound the way you want?   Do you use a different process when writing nonfiction? How many drafts do you usually write of  a short story, or a novel?

Read Full Post »

I was going to write a post on revising manuscripts today, but instead I spent most of the morning ordering food from the menu of a local sports-themed restaurant. My daughter got a job as a waitress there and she can’t start getting paid tips until she has memorized the menu and finished the training program. The entire family has been recruited as practice customers. Thankfully, the food is pretend and so is the bill, or we’d be stuffed and broke.

There are several things she repeated so many times that I’ve memorized them, too. Some of them reminded me of writing:

1. I will never forget that my daughter’s/waitress’ name is Lisa. She greeted me with that opener for every practice meal I ordered.

Repeating the same thing can be very annoying, and most people only need to hear something once or twice to catch your meaning.

2. This restaurant is famous for its wings, and I can name all nine sauces they serve with them.

Stories should have a theme people can recognize, with scenes and events that support it.

3. When served in a glass, beer comes in short and tall sizes. I learned 8 of them, and know the price for each one. As I’ve never been a beer drinker, I doubt this will ever matter to me.

Including bits of information a reader might not know can add interest to a story or article, but too many useless facts can feel like homework.

4. Lemonade isn’t listed on the menu, but is available in several flavors for $2.29. This was important for me to know as I always ask for lemonade with a meal, except for breakfast.

Don’t assume readers know what you’re thinking. They may be able to infer things from the backstory you provide, but some elements need to be clear for the reader to fully enjoy your story.

5. Burgers don’t come with fries. You have to pay extra.

Some readers will feel cheated if a story doesn’t deliver what they expect or doesn’t tie up loose ends. They shouldn’t have to buy the second book in the sequel to feel satisfied with the first one.

I’ll share a few more tips on waitressing and writing when I finish the post on revisions. 😉 That’s taking more time than I expected due to family matters and extra reading I’ve been doing. I’m working on 2 book reviews, and trying to get in 2,000 words each day on the new novel I’m writing. That’s going very well, much to my surprise. My goal is to finish it before October, and so far I’m staying on track. Yeah, me!



What keeps you from sticking to your writing goals? What job would you want to have if you weren’t planning on being a writer? What’s the worst job you ever had, or the best? About how many words do you write on an average writing day?


Read Full Post »

I have a lot of things I must do today, so I’m going to refer you to some excellent posts I’ve read on various topics instead of writing one of my own. Here you go:

Agent Chip MacGregor lists skills a writer needs to develop. http://chipmacgregor.typepad.com/main/2010/03/what-skills-does-a-writer-need-to-develop-.html


Patrick Dent provides lots of tips on writing fiction, including setting, scenes, dialog, and more.


Holly Lisle gives advice on how to revise a novel.


Editor Lynn Price discusses the role of blogging in an author’s “platform.”


Those should keep you busy for a while.  🙂


Do you have some interesting/informative sites you can recommend for writers? What about a post you’ve written on a particular topic that writers might find helpful? Post links in the comments so we can all learn more about the craft of writing.

Read Full Post »

Whether it’s a short story or a novel, writers often go through several stages before writing “End” on the manuscript. I’m in the revision stage on my novel, having already gone through brainstorming, plotting, characterizations, and conflict building. The first draft is complete, and all the characters have assumed the roles I envisioned them fulfilling in this story. The main conflicts have been resolved, and the plot seems to follow a logical, though twisted, progression.

What I’m working on now is adding layers to the story to give it more depth and develop transitions between the scenes and chapters I’ve already written. Adding layers to the basic story serves several purposes:

1.  Characters can be fleshed out so they become more realistic.

2.  Foreshadowing can be inserted to give the reader clues about what lies ahead, so when events occur they make sense and seem believable.

3.  Relationships can be strengthened or clarified so they are easier to understand.

4.  Descriptions and sensory details can be expanded to make the setting more authentic.

5.  Word choices can be refined to elicit the desired tone, and make the dialog more realistic.

Having a solid foundation to build upon is crucial, but adding in layers of subplots, exposition, and specific details can transform a basic plot into a complex, unique story. That’s the goal I’m working toward right now.


Edit December 8, 2009: 

Agent Scott Eagan has a good post today on layering subplots to a enrich a story. He also stresses avoiding information dumps, and recommends layering in portions of the backstory throughout the manuscript. His blog is full of good tips on other topics, too. Check it out: http://scotteagan.blogspot.com/2009/12/reviewing-basics-good-practice.html


Edit November 1, 2012: Agent Scott Eagan’s post today gives insight into how to use the technique of layering effectively. Gave me an “aha moment.”



Do you work from a basic outline, have most of your plot points figured out in advance, or just start writing and see where it leads? How many revisions do you usually make before you’re satisfied with your stories? Do you add layers, or do you develop each aspect of the story as you write it?

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: