Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Are We There Yet?

Yep, I'm posting on Tuesday and not Wednesday, because I'll be busy the rest of the week.

In these days of tight and demanding publishing, it's very important to be sure to send out your VERY BEST work. Even if you are self-publishing, you owe it to yourself to make your manuscript the very best it can be before public eyes land on it. But when you're writing and revising away on a story--be it short or novel-length--how do you know when you're finished? How do you know when your baby is polished enough to send out into the cold, cruel world?

When You Are NOT Done
You are never done as soon as you type the words "The End." Never. No one creates a perfect enough rough draft that he or she can bundle it up hot off the press.

The Process
1. You need at least one revision pass, and I don't mean minor tweaks for wording or a lookover for typos! I mean tightening to notch up pacing, invigorating dull dialogue, and strengthening character arc (how your character changes from page 1 to the end).
2. You need someone else to read it, preferably more than one person and  not a spouse or other relative. Find beta readers and critique partners. They are a necessity because they will see things you would never, ever see. Their brains are different from yours.
3. If your readers find mostly positive things to say, be very suspicious. While it's an ego boost, you may need search out more demanding and knowledgeable critiquers.
4. Do your first revision. This could be pretty major. Make sure you have the big picture things in place here, because you don't want to get farther down the road and be asked by an agent or editor to fix these things! (If they even bother to take on your project--often they will just reject your manuscript and aim for one that's more market-ready.)
5. Get another round of critiquing, even after your betas have read your initial draft and you've revised to their notes. This second round could be with the same writer friends, but it's helpful if one or more are from totally different people.
6. After you work on bigger picture stuff: polish and polish and POLISH. If you're not good at grammar and sentence structure and spelling, find someone who is. Pay for it, even.
7. Consider revising again if you get requests for partials/fulls and there aren't any bites.
8. Trust your gut. You know that passage that BUGS you every time you read it but you haven't fixed it yet? Or the scene you're not sure really "works"? Chances are, it doesn't. Attack and fix that spot. Otherwise it'll come back to haunt you and you'll have to fix it later.

My Revision Procedure
I personally do a minimum of 3 revisions on my manuscripts, and then my agent adds at least 2--one for major changes and then a line-edit for polishing. For my agented novel SHAPERS, I've gone through about 8 rounds of revision. And I have at least one more (line-edit) to go! Whew.

Awesome Opportunity for Writers: WriteOnCon
I heartily encourage every writer to participate in this FREE annual online writer's conference that is being offered from August 13-14, 2013. There are forums to post queries and initial pages, and you get practice critiquing others' works. It's a great place to find critique partners, as well as get exposure to agents and editors who visit the forums. There are lectures and events just like a regular conference, but you can participate from the comfort of your own home. If you miss a live session, they are recorded and you can catch them onsite later. And there are daily contests and giveaways!! Any writer can take part in the informative lectures, but the critique forums are specifically for writers who have stories with main characters who are 18 and under.

Check it out HERE. Get your manuscripts and queries ready!

Have you ever been tempted to query or send off a manuscript as soon as it's finished?
Roughly how many revision passes do you usually make on a manuscript?
Do you have a good staple of betas and/or critique partners to help hone your work?
Do you plan to attend WriteOnCon?


  1. The nice thing is the more novels you write, the faster you become at the process. Though I still don't know how some authors can write several novels a year. That's much faster than me.

    Thanks for the WriteOnCon link, Carol. I'm looking forward to it.

  2. Trust your gut. This is so very true.

  3. Heck yes! I've been tempted to send out my ms early (as you know). I'll admit it was only as a test to see if my query was working... didn't expect to get bites. Oops.

    I've loved WriteOn in previous years so I'm looking forward to this year's one too.

  4. I go through tons of revisions too. It's so great to see it come together draft, after draft, after draft. I'd be stuck without my CP's!

  5. Excellent advice. I'm glad I have tough critiquers and over the years I've been tougher on myself as well throughout the stages of writing.

  6. Hi, Carol,

    You are SO RIGHT about revision and polishing. I've lost count how many time I've beat my more ms' to death and I have a few more to go. But with each new revision it get shinier and shinier... I plan to make mine BLINDING!!!! lol..

    Have a great weekend!!!!!

  7. I have definitely fallen prey to querying too soon - not without editing, but just without enough editing :) I usually do at least 3 major edits, but countless more minor sweeps through for specific things (words I use too much, etc.). I totally agree about tackling the sections that bug you - those always come back to haunt me later. I'm about to kill one of those darlings now, in fact. I just signed up for WriteOnCon! Perfect timing since I'm on staycation.

  8. I'll be a WriteOnCon, but not in the forums. My first pages aren't ready for that kind of intense, and I'm totally swamped with finishing another book. Crazy how that goes, eh?

    Eight rounds, eh? Whew! I'm glad you're still standing. That can be a tax on the sanity levels. Keep at it!

  9. I lost count of how many rounds of revisions my novel The Big Smoke (which I indie pubbed) went through. Lots! Wouldn't have it any other way though. :-)

  10. Yep I did a whole post on "first draft euphoria." I always get so excited and passionate, but experience has taught me there's always more work to be done. I agree with all your suggestions here. I usually go thru 2-3 rounds of betas after CPs and revisions. It's a must!
    I also believe writers can get stuck on that "must be perfect" kick to tho, and that can be equally as debilitating as sending out a first draft. :)


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