Reread, Revise, Repeat

The truth is I have very little idea what I’m doing.

I came into NaNoWriMo a little bit of a cheat. I had a novel that I’d already spent a lot of time on, and I wanted to finish it, so I used NaNo to do so. Since then, I’ve been letting it cool. I am a big believer in the advice that after completing a manuscript you should get a little distance from it before you dive back into editing.

The idea is you’re trying to see your story with fresh eyes. If you’re like me, the time away also gives you the opportunity to stop hating your characters. By the end of my novel, I was barreling toward the finish line because I didn’t want to spend one more day with those people in my head. I loved them when I created them, but familiarity does indeed breed contempt, and the gang and I had spent far too much time together.

Since completing the manuscript, I’ve sent it out to some beta readers, and I’m just now beginning to get some notes. They’ve been mainly positive, but there are also a lot of good suggestions for improvement.

My reaction to someone else’s opinion of my story has been mixed. The rational part of me sees the critiques and thinks, “That’s a good point. I really need to address that. I’m glad they caught that.”

However, there is a little brat inside my head as well and he has full-on pout-rage.  He’s stomping his feet and holding his breath because he doesn’t want to spend any more time on this story. These people are daring to suggest he do even more work. He thinks the novel is good enough as it is, and those beta readers can like it or leave it.

(Important note: If you ever find yourself thinking or speaking the words “good enough,” it probably isn’t. You need to go back and try harder.)

Rest assured I have already told the brat to go fuck himself. He’s lazy, but he’s also afraid because rewriting is a beast unto itself and probably more work than the initial sprint to the finish. I know I have a solid first draft, but I want this story to be even better, so I’m going to put in the time to address the questions my betas have raised.

After taking a good two months off, I’m finally doing a full read of the manuscript. I’m about a third of the way through, and I’m happy to report it’s not entirely shitty. I even laughed at a couple of lines that I’d forgotten I’d written.

I’m taking notes as I go, highlighting the areas that need tightening or could benefit from a little more explanation. I’m looking for plot holes, examining character motivation, and making sure that each chapter has a clearly defined goal. When I get to the end of the book, I’ll go back and focus on just those parts, rewriting as necessary. Then I’ll tackle the betas’ suggestions and do the same.

After that’s done, I’ll read the whole thing again, this time getting picky about phrasing and punctuation. I have a list of overused words and annoying phrases that I’m sure have snuck into my manuscript. I will attempt to assassinate most adverbs and exclamation points, both of which are a plague on my writing. And again, I’ll tighten up the writing wherever I can because I want my story to move at such a quick clip that readers forget to put it down.

When that round of edits is complete, I’m sure I’ll read the novel through a third time because that’s what people whom I respect have suggested I do. I won’t like it, but I know those I trust have my best interests in mind, so I will follow their advice.

By the end of this editing gauntlet, I hope to have a manuscript that’s worthy of being seen outside my small group of trusted friends. Regardless, I’m pushing it out the door. I will not invest this much time in a project just to shelve it.

Ready or not, world, here it comes.

Larry Jenkins is an aspiring Word Pimp. Has laptop, will travel. Let's make this happen, people.

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