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.
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?