18 January 2011

How to revise your manuscript

Finally I've sent that nonfiction project off to the Publisher and here came time for revision and self-editing of my NaNoWriMo novel.

So I've read all the posts on revising and self-editing I've bookmarked over the last couple of months, read and made notes from a book by James Scott Bell 'Revision & self-editing' and, as advised, sat to print my manuscript off.
But my printer ran out of ink and I had to wait for a new cartrige.

In the meantime I've decided to collate advice on how to revise a manuscript / a novel.
Here's the summary of what I've found out:

Revising your manuscript in 6 steps:
1. Print your entire manuscript off.
Make sure the font is legible, with 1,5-2 spaces between the lines, margins ample enough to make notes on them; one sided preferably. Many revision experts advice to print your MS the way you would to send it to your publisher.

2. Get mentally prepared for revisions - this is going to make your book better, stronger, punchier. Janice Hardy has more advice on how to put yourself in the right mood before revisions on her blog The Other side of the Story.

3. Get ready to read: get a pen (why not a red one?), a comfy chair, a table, good lighting, a bit of peace and quiet.
Holy Lisle also suggests a notebook and nerves of steel.

3a. At this stage is also good to remind yourself- what is the theme of your book- who are your main characters and what are their emotional journey- what is the conflict about

4. Read your manuscript.
JS Bell advises to read MS in a couple of settings, as a reader would; don't make any changes at this point, just make comments on the MS (red pen comes handy).

You may want to use shorthand markings to make comments about the changes you may want to make.
The best way of going about it is to have your own system.
I'm going to use:
-  V to mark places where story is dragging on (the more VVV, the worse)
- [?...] around passages that feel unnecessary/ in the wrong place
- [ more!] where I feel I need to add something
- underlining and a circle for potential plot holes (green or amber eyes??)
- circle around the name of a character / an event that I've decided to change or may not otherwise suit the plot, emotional arch or the story theme

5. Analize your
- story (does it make sense? is the plot compelling? does it flow nicely? Are the stakes high enough?)
pace/flow ( is the pace right? does every scene is a story in itself and does it end with a mini-climax?)
- characters (do they jump off the page? are they tri-dimensional? do they grow? what are their motivations and does it make sense?
- setting (does it add another layer to your story? does it change? do you use all 5 senses?)
- dialogue (does it sound natural? does it move the story forward or help building your characters? is it rambling?)
- voice/style (show vs tell? active verbs or passive voice? does the opening paragraph introduces the main threads of the story?)
- technicalities (lenght of the manuscript and chapters, ponctuation, grammar, formatting etc)

More advice on specific aspects of this stage: Fiction Editing Checklist by Sherry on Dark Angel's Blog and A self-editing checklist by The Book Doctor

6. Implement the changes in your manuscript.

The process can be repeated until you are happy with the final product.

What are your revising and editing tips?

I'm off to find a comfy chair.

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