Thursday, April 27, 2017

0 Writing 101: Revising (Why You Need to Find Your People)

**This post is part of the Writing 101: From Concept to Query (and Beyond!) series. For an overview of planned posts, take a look at the series introduction**

Last week, we looked at the process of drafting a novel, and different methods writers use to get from page one to finally typing THE END. Several times throughout that post, I mentioned the need for RIGOROUS REVISIONS, and so this week, we’ll explore the revision process—how you might go about it, and ways to get the most out of your editing.

There are two key ingredients to successful revisions. They are

Time
and
Perspective

After you finish drafting your novel, it’s important to step away for awhile. Take a few weeks, or even months, and resist the urge to peek at your masterpiece. Consider it a well-earned vacation for your writer brain, or, if time off isn’t your style, start work on another project.

Once you’ve taken some time away, it’s time for a complete read-through of your draft. I’m sure revision strategies vary, but I’d highly recommend following this step. It’ll give you an overview of your plot, your character arcs, and your pacing. Take notes as you go to refer to later.

While it’s possible to revise multiple elements at once, I’d also recommend planning on at least two rounds of revisions—one for big picture issues in which you’ll cut what doesn’t work, add scenes, tie up loose ends, solidify character development, etc. In a second round of revisions you can deal with smaller, more mechanical problems—grammar and spelling errors, filter words, the way sentences flow, etc.

(Because I’m giving a lot of advice right now about what personally works for me and most of the writers I know, I do think it’s important to point out that everyone’s process is different. Just because something works for one person, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you, or that you have to feel bound to doing things a certain way! You can, however, think of these as revision best practices—they’ll help you to revise efficiently and prepare you for the sort of editorial work you’d do for an agent or editor.
Be prepared for the fact that revisions can take longer than the actual drafting process. As you revise and hone your techniques, hopefully the revising process will become streamlined, but every book is different. I’ve personally revised a book that went through eighteen drafts, and another that went through four. Take as much time as you need to get to the point where you’re as confident as possible in your story, and can’t see any further changes that need making.)

Once you've taken time to get a bit of perspective of your own, gone through multiple drafts, and are convinced you have a work of genius on your hands, it’s time for real perspective--the outside kind. It's time to let people read your book baby and remind you that in point of fact, you’re probably not the next JK Rowling ;)

 It’s time to find yourself some
Critique Partners

I’ve written about CPs here at AYAP before, discussing how important they are, what role they fulfill, and places you can start looking for them. In brief, a critique partner is another writer who will critique your work, generally in exchange for your critique of theirs. It can be a one off relationship, in which you agree to read a single work or even just a handful of chapters, or if you connect, you can decide to exchange work indefinitely.

You may be tempted to think now, “Oh Laura. I’ve done so much revising on my own, and finding CPs just sounds like a lot of extra work. Why would I go to all that trouble?” 

Well, remember that perspective I mentioned? Critique partners will provide it in spades. They’re not attached to your work the way you are. They’re looking at it with fresh eyes. They won’t get precious about things the way you might be tempted to. Good CPs are worth their weight in gold. I would personally never send out a word that my CPs haven’t okayed first. Not only that, but if you make a great connection with critique partners, they can also serve as an emotional support network during the next steps of your writing journey. Writing can be a solitary pursuit, and it’s great to find your people. Having a small community around you makes such a difference both to your craft and your quality of life while pursuing publication!

It's extremely important to approach CP feedback with humility. Spend time thinking over the suggestions your CPs make and really weighing whether or not they’re right for your story. Be ready to change your mind, but also don’t compromise your vision for your manuscript. Incorporating editorial feedback well is an art-form in and of itself, in which you use suggestions from your readers as a springboard to take your manuscript to greater heights.

Once you’ve gone through multiple drafts of your own revisions, and made more changes based on critique partner feedback, your manuscript is finished (for now)!!! Rejoice, rejoice!

HOWEVER

Sometimes you may still feel like there’s a trouble spot in your manuscript that you can’t quite put your finger on. Or you may get conflicting or confusing negative feedback from your critique partners. If you sense your manuscript needs a bit more work to get it to the next level, but neither you nor your CPs can see how to get it there, you might want to consider hiring a freelance editor.

Freelance editors are not always necessary, particularly if you're pursuing traditional publication as opposed to self-publishing, but they can be extremely helpful when you’re not sure what needs tweaking in your manuscript or how you can best resolve problems. Freelancers are paid for their work, and I absolutely recommend doing your research before hiring a freelance editor, to ensure that they’re legitimate and aboveboard and that previous clients have gone away satisfied with the service provided. 

While the insight of a freelance editor can prove invaluable, it’s also not always necessary. You will know best what your manuscript needs.

We’d love to hear more about your revision process in the comments below, and will be back next week to discuss what steps to take after your books is completed and revised!

About the Author


Laura Weymouth is AYAP's contest coordinator, working to create opportunities for you to get samples of your work in front of agents right here on Adventures in YA Publishing.

Laura lives on the edge of the woods in western New York, along with her husband, two wild-hearted daughters, a spoiled cat, and an indeterminate number of chickens. Her YA fantasy debut, THE WEIGHT OF WORLDS, is forthcoming from HarperTeen in the fall of 2018.

You can follow Laura on Twitter and add her book on Goodreads.

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