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September 28th, 2009

Writing and publishing a novel: Part Four


When last we left off, you had a killer idea, and you had your character(s) figured out, and then you finally went and wrote the book.  

But just because you typed "THE END" does not mean your job is done. No, far from it. It's time to revise.

And trust me when i say this: EVERY. SINGLE. PUBLISHED. AUTHOR. REVISES. Every single one of us. So if you're hoping to get published, then you'd best get used to this step in the process. It's the only way to succeed! 


Most people know I'm a reviser. I don't write shiny novels, I revise really crappy novels into shiny  novels. It has taken me quite some time to figure out a good way to approach revisions. I used to just sit down with my novel and start revising and fixing things as I went, but it was a kind of hodge-podge approach.

Here's why it didn't work. Let's say you're cleaning your house. You start out by grabbing the hairbrush you left on the coutner and you go to put it in the bathroom but then while in the bathroom decide to brush your teeth and then when you're done and looking in the mirror you realize that your shirt has toothpaste on it and so you go to change and while in your bedroomm you decide to fold the laundry sitting on the bed and watch TV at the same time but halfway through you get sucked into the TV and forget about the house.

Yeah, I used to revise like that. You start out reading and get distracted by chapter three, and you spend all kinds of time perfecting chapter three and then when you get to chapter 7 you realize that Chapter 3 doesn't work at all, and you have to go delete it.

There's a better way to approach revisions. I call it the "Make it look a lot worse before it can get better" approach. 

SKIP line editing. Completely. Instead, Read-thru your novel once, and DO NOT CHANGE A SINGLE THING. Instead, TYPE IN YOUR THOUGHTS as you go, either with big ****INSERT THIS HERE***** type, or highlight your comments in yellow, or something like that, so its easy to find. I prefer doing the *** thing, becuase then you can use the search function and find your comments, rather than scanning the whole draft.

The goal here is to just make note of what you're thinking as you read. It's very easy to get lost once you start changing stuff. But if you can NOT change anything but rather, just get your thoughts down in an easy to use manner, it'll be a huge difference.

It's sort of a forest for the trees kind of deal. While you are reading and just typing thoughts, it's easier to keep your ideas straight. But once you delve into line editing things and writing new lines, your mind is no longer on the overall picture but on the small details.

Some things I have been known to write in my manuscripts:

**INSERT WITTY DIALOG HERE. H/h have not been in the same scene for three chapters now...put them together.*
** Too much whinienss for the last dozen pages. Give her something to do.**
**What happened to the best friend? Haven't seen her in five chapters. Give her some face time.**
**Would she really do that? Maybe think of a way to have her react that fits her character better.**
**Tension just took a seroius downturn. Redo this scene to bring it back up.... I could walk away right now and not even care.***
**BLAH. This dialog sucks.***
***Expand this scene... no detail, not enough meat.***


So, you see, once you have written yourelf a bunch of lovely comments, you can go back through and actually do that.

You're no longer revising the whole novel, but you're approaching the changes one comment at a time. Like a to-do list is buried right there in your novel, and you just have to follow it.

Start over again at the beginning, and start reading. When you get to your lovely *** marks, tackle that scene with gusto, focusing on how to really make it better.

By the time you get to the end of the manuscript, you'll have a ton of great changes. Then you can start the line-editing stuff.
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