By Jennifer Hallmark
Two essential factors in taking a book from the rough draft stage to polished work are revising and editing. I’ve read and re-read books on the subject, yet two books stand alone.
Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
I shudder to think of that first novel I naively sent to a small publisher. I’d edited the spelling and grammar somewhat, but really had no idea what revising and editing meant. In James Scott Bell’s book, he says, “That’s what self-editing and revision are all about. Learning, feeling, writing, analyzing, correcting, and making your writing better.” Let’s look at these two terms.
First you write your rough draft. This is a crucial part, because without your ideas all on paper, there is nothing to edit and revise. 🙂 So write that novel or non-fiction book. Pour out your soul and don’t worry about how awful it is. That’s why we edit and revise. Consider the rough draft as the way you look when you first wake up. Makeup and fixed hair are the edits and revision. Simple.
Editing sharpens your work. You look at each component of the story and ask yourself the following questions:
- Does this work?
- Does it make sense?
- Is it dull? Boring? Snore-worthy?
Look at each character, each scene, and the dialogue then ask these simple questions. Next, look at the strength of your overall plot, voice, descriptions and POV (point of view). How do they hold up? For me personally, I belong to a critique group and have an editor friend read over all my work. However, as I’m learning, I’m editing more and more of my work–all by myself. And it is so much better than that first manuscript.
Revising is simply removing all from your novel or non-fiction work that is non-essential. Do we really need to know that Millie’s dog went to the groomer’s on Friday? Probably not, unless she unwittingly captures a picture of a crime with her phone while she’s there. Revising is the painful part of the process. There are so many plot points exciting to you that leave the reader yawning. Cut them. Now. Quickly.
- Rough draft.
- Take time off.
- Take more time off.
- Get someone else to read your work.
Then when you’ve done all you know how, send it to a publisher. It’s the only way you’ll ever know. Questions? Anyone? Anyone?