So, after months of wrestling with revision tactics, I finally succumbed and got a book on it. I bought Write and Revise for Publication by Jack Smith (Writer’s Digest, 2013), and I believe that what I found in these pages is valuable enough to share with you lovely people.
Without further ado, here are the three most useful tips I gleaned from the revision chapter:
1. There is a difference between revision and fine-tuning
Revision involves looking at big elements like characterization, theme, plot etc. Fine-tuning “includes anything from correcting spelling mistakes to improving wording, sentence construction, and basic grammar” (Smith).
This is a major mistake I’ve been making. I haven’t been separating revision and fine-tuning, making the process of editing feel like one massive and daunting task. I even printed off my whole manuscript at Staples the other day (it’s so big and pretty!!) for the first time, not realizing that I had done so with the intent to fine-tune because I can catch grammatical errors and awkwardness easier off the computer. As Smith says, fine-tuning should come after revision, and my revision isn’t done yet. So what sorts of things do I need to focus on before I get to tackling the hardcopy?
2. Range and depth of character
This is without a doubt, where I’ve been struggling the most. I’ve finally crafted a satisfactory villain (to my standards, we’ll see what happens when my next beta readers get a peak!), but what about the secondary characters? Smith writes, “If secondary characters are plain and dull without an underlying benefit–say a comic effect–their contact and dialogue with the main character could affect this character in a negative way.” I’ve been completely overlooking some of the characters who have relationships with my protagonist–mainly, her mother. Smith argues that “conflict is crucial to creating a character with depth,” and I hadn’t realized until now that I could use the mother as a tool to raise the stakes for my protagonist, making her and the plot more interesting.
3. Edit ten pages every day, don’t start writing anything else while editing, but continue to read
These are all fairly self-explanatory. Smith acknowledges that editing a novel is a huge feat that will take up a huge amount of time (which is why you shouldn’t begin another writing project); therefore, if it’s broken down into ten pages per day, the whole process could be finished in about a month. I like this because once again, it makes a large and daunting task smaller. This means that you have a whole day, a whole twenty-four hours, for ten pages. By the end of the day, those ten pages will be pretty darn good, and by continuing to read, you’ll have the influence of other established authors to help you improve your own work.
There are a few other handy tips given by Smith, involving things like point of view, and style, but I believe that if you’re done your novel, you should hopefully be beyond the need to question those elements. My plan of attack is to revise the scenes involving my protagonist’s mother, begin the hardcopy fine-tuning, and then hand it off to beta readers while researching agents. Wish me luck!