Monday, May 17, 2010

How To Revise a Novel: Steps #4 and #5

I totally forgot to finish explaining my revision process! I guess my only excuse is that I was busy revising. In any case, let's take a moment to review:
Step #1 is Look at your work objectively.
Step #2 is See the big picture.
Step #3 is Write until it's true.

If you've done all that, it's time for Step #4: MAKE THE WRITING SHINE.
This is the step most people think of when they hear the word, "revise." This is red-pen-correction stuff. This is The Elements of Style and Essentials of English (books I consult quite often while revising). At this point, your ideas are solid. It's time to make sure you've expressed those ideas in the best possible way.

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Are your sentences in the best order? Are they clear?

2. Have you chosen the best words?
  • Look out for word echoes (using the same word too often, too close together)
  • Replace adverbs with more specific verbs.
  • Try to stay active with your language.
  • Be true to your characters' voices.
  • Don't use two words if one will do.
3. Have you been consistent with the point of view and the tense?

4. Have you searched for punctuation and grammatical errors?

5. Have you gotten rid of typos? (Try reading your manuscript backwards to catch these.)

If you've done all this, you are ready for the last step in the revision process.
Are you ready?
It's a doozy!

Step #5: REPEAT.

Yep, you read that right. Repeat. Go back to Step #1 and begin the process again. Each revision pass will bring you closer and closer to the amazing manuscript you have in your head. And when you really and truly don't know how to make it any better? That's when it's time to submit it to an agent or editor.

Good luck!


Karen Troncale said...

I teach 4th grade and tell my students the same things about editing and revising. I don't think they believe me when I explain to them how many times I might edit and revise a piece of my own work. I'm looking forward to reading your book!

Brenda Ferber said...

Thanks Karen. I hear this from teachers a lot! I think it's a rare kid who doesn't hear the word "revise" and think, "I've done something wrong." When I visit schools, I emphasize how revision means you don't have to be perfect the first time (or the second or third...). Knowing you can revise allows you to be more creative and daring.

Thanks for commenting, and have a great summer!