Congratulations on completing a draft of your current WIP (Work in Progress)!
Now you’ll want to revise and polish your writing to make your story shine.
It’s time to conquer revision.
After all, writing is rewriting.
There are a number of ways to approach the revision process, but I recommend breaking things down a bit, so that as you go through the manuscript, you don’t lose track of the items that need fixing along the way.
A great way to do this is to pick one key component of the work to focus on as you go through each pass.
Start with the big things, then work your way down.
Is plot your big strength but character development a struggle? You may want to start your revision process focused on character arc with an aim toward ensuring you have put in place all of the foundational elements and internal turning points to ensure your character’s journey is both fully realized and believable.
Are you great at delivering action, but struggle with setting and/or sensory detail? Then you’ll want to find ways to layer in the right details to ground your reader in the world and deepen the overall story.
Once you have made sure the major elements are clicking, you will be ready to dig into the details, and clean up, like replacing overused words and/or repetitive gestures.
For example, we all have favorite words that we use in early drafting, just to get the story out on the page. Writing forward can be a challenge if you are always trying to find just the wright word. So, we tend to use a lot of the same words over and again.
Clearing out overused words.
Common words we tend to overuse the most include those necessary for conveying simple actions like walking and looking. Often, we fall into using these “stage directions” because we just need to move our characters around, or we need a physical action, something for them to do. Often, these stage directions are really for us, the writers, so our brains can keep track of where our characters are in space. But you may not even need them. So you want to look for words you tend to rely on to convey basic movements/actions and find ways to cut or replace them.
Additionally, it’s one thing to give a character a tic, but if they are constantly raising an eyebrow or grinding their teeth, the reader will get tired of hearing about it. Worse, if all of the characters use the same gestures to express emotion, you will want to find ways to differentiate their behaviors and make them unique.
Digging into the details.
Finally, to get the tone and mood right, and creating and maintaining a believable setting/world, and establishing voice, focusing on word choice is key.
Ultimately, working from the high level/major craft elements down through the layering in of emotion on the page, then down to the elemental level of sentence structure and word choice is a great way to approach revision. As with remodeling a house, you want to go from the big elements to the smaller ones. After all, you wouldn’t paint before you’re done moving the walls or adding in those new windows!
The point is, while revision can be a major endeavor, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It can be broken down into small tasks, and those tasks help to keep us focused on the various elements and layers as we refine each draft. Like any big job, focusing on a single component as you go will help you stay on track and ensure you don’t overlook anything important.
Have fun conquering revision!
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