Revising Your Manuscript



"What's a rewrite?" Tom Clancy quipped at a recent conference. "I write them pretty much the way you guys read them and I turn in a fairly clean product." Clancy is the exception to the rule. Most of us go through many drafts before we're done. But by the time you've read and reread your work ten or twenty times, it can become too familiar to you, making it next to impossible to flush out mistakes and recognize areas that could use some reworking. Each rereading seems to accomplish less than the one before.

Here's a tip to help make your revision time more productive. Take a piece of paper and list the problems you hope to discover and correct. Your list could look something like this:

  • 1. Look for the deadwood, the unnecessary bits that don't move your story forward.
  • 2. Check the first paragraph of each chapter for "hooks."
  • 3. Check the end of each chapter for "cliffhangers."
  • 4. Examine each page for balance between dialogue, action, introspection and description.
  • 5. Find places to build in more character traits.
  • 6. Look for inconsistencies.
  • 7. Look for repetition, words (and ideas) repeated too often, too close to each other.
  • 8. Find typos and grammatical errors.

Each time you sit down to reread your manuscript, choose one point from the list to look for; ignore everything else. Every rereading needs to accomplish something specific. Have a set goal in mind each time you start. Know what it is you plan to accomplish, and your rereading time will accomplish more.

*Hint: Always save typo hunting for last. Rereading leads to rewriting, and rewriting leads to more typos.

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