How do I revise thee? Let me count the ways.
The first three words in one definition of "revise" is reconsider and alter. I love the idea of integrating reconsidering into the art of revision (because it is an art), since when a writer reconsiders, they weigh choices, they look at their writing with new eyes and they make decisions.
Some say I'm old-school. Many say I'm old. (They're all right.) However, imagine my surprise when I looked up an article on revision tips, and it turns out that what works for me are highly recommended strategies. Here are some of them:
- Do a "find and replace." Do you worry you rely too often on "She raised one eyebrow" when adding gestures and facial expressions? If you look under "edit" (when it comes to Google docs) and choose "find a replace," you can type in "eyebrow" and it will highlight all the spots where that word appears. Recently Sue Bradford Edwards gave a tip about how we overuse the verb look. You know--"I looked at him," and "She looked down at the ground." Do a "find and replace" and change things up.
- Print out the manuscript and read it aloud. I did this before I headed to a recent writing retreat because I knew I had hours and hours and hours of time to sit my butt in a chair and work on my
NaNoWriMo mess from 2016manuscript. Reading it aloud (quietly) to myself allowed me to hear what didn't work rhythmically. What words had I left out? Where were typos still hanging around?
- Write in additional bits by hand. When I printed out my manuscript, I printed it with large side margins so there'd be plenty of room to make notes and write. I used a red pen so the notes and scratchings-out could be easily seen.
- Keep a list of issues that need to be taken care of. I would type in notes and highlight them in yellow, so there was no way they could be ignored or forgotten. For example, I was reading Jodi Picoult's most recent novel. In it, one of her characters recalled some very specific memories about their father. I thought a bit of reminiscing--at a key spot--would be perfect in my manuscript, so I made a note: Include a string of memories about Dad, a la Jodi Picoult. Towards the end of my story, my characters leave with their red wagon. However, earlier, I didn't include what they'd done with their red wagon when they had arrived. I made myself a note: Make sure and do something with the wagon when they get there.
- Beg a beta reader to read your manuscript. I have a few friends I'm going to entrust my manuscript to. The trust is not a component because it's such a valuable stack of papers. No. The trust is there because I am certain they will give me honest feedback. I don't need anything sugar-coated right now. I need constructive criticism.
- Hire an editor. I've already asked Margo Dill to edit my manuscript. Again. Her first go-around critique was disappointing because I thought it was perfect and ready--right then--for publication. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Her first go-around feedback was spot-on because she pointed out major problems that, deep down in my heart I knew were there. Finally, her first go-around feedback pointed out the strengths of the manuscript and gave me specific suggestions on how to make those major much-need revisions.
- Submit. Oh. I'm supposed to send out my manuscript after I've revised it? Really? Actually, as I've been working on this story, I've compiled a list of prospective publishers. I made a separate document, and will begin submitting once the manuscript is ready. Otherwise, if I just let the stack of paper gather dust, I'll always wonder, What would have happened if...? Why put all that work into a manuscript, only to let it become a doorstop?
What are you revising these days? And do you have any secret revision strategies you'd care to share? Inquiring minds want to know...