The other day I received an email from someone asking what they should do when they have revised and think they have their book where they want it. I figured others might have the same question, so I'm going to discuss that here today.
First, these tips are for when you are happy with the story itself. You're convinced you've cleared up plot holes and any other issues. What now? You're not finished revising. Now you need to focus on different things.
~Put Your Book Away You need time away, at least a month, but I recommend two to three. Write something else, and read in your genre in the meantime. You need to forget that book in order to read it with fresh eyes.
~ Track Your Timeline I keep a notebook where I track the timeline for each book I write. It looks something like this:
Chapter 1 page 1 Monday, October 3rd morning to evening
Chapter 2 page 7 Monday, October 3rd evening through Tuesday, October 4th midday
Chapter 3 page 13 Tuesday, October 4th midday through night
Why do I do this? Simple, you want to make sure you don't skip a day somewhere. Also, if I say the MC has two weeks to do something, I better make sure I'm accurate on those two weeks. (You can create this timeline as you are drafting.)
~Send You Manuscript To an e-Reader I email my files to my Kindle. ALWAYS! Reading in a different format makes a huge difference as far as catching errors.
~Allow Your e-Reader to Read Aloud to You This is one of my favorite tricks because it's been proven that your mind can read misspelled words as long as the first and last letter of the word are in the correct positions. I find "form" instead of "from" all the time! "Titled" instead of "tilted" is another common misspelling. Your e-reader can only read what you wrote, not what you meant to write, so it's wonderful for picking up on these errors. Also, hearing how your book sounds is very important for determining flow, voice, pace, and repetition.
~Read Your Book Backward This one always confuses people, but it's a must! I don't mean word for word. I mean paragraph by paragraph or sentence by sentence. If I were reading this post backward, I'd start by reading the last paragraph first. Then I'd read the second to last paragraph. Then I'd read the third to last, and so on. The point of this is to keep the story from consuming your thoughts. You are focusing on sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, missing words, and spelling. The cool thing about reading backward is that repetition jumps out at you. I have no idea why, but it does.
~Check for Common Misspellings The publishing world defaults to Merriam-Webster. Live on that site!!!! I always have it open. Here are common misspellings I find all the time: (Note these are American spellings taken from Merriam-Webster.)
backwards - There's no S on this word!
forwards - There's no S on this word!
towards - There's no S on this word!
afterwards - There's no S on this word!
(Notice the common thread with these?)
~Check for Overused Words There are some that we all overuse, and then there are others specific to each writer. Here are some common ones to look for and cut:
~Find a Beloved Beta or Two When you're finished doing the above, it's time to pass your book on to some betas. Fresh eyes that aren't familiar with your book work wonders. Once you get feedback from your betas and make changes, I'd repeat sending the manuscript to your e-reader and/or reading the manuscript backward to catch any errors created during your revision.
Your manuscript should be in good shape and ready to submit after that. If you're self-publishing, please hire an editor. It's a must! If you're submitting to agents or publishers, you'll eventually be paired with an editor, so no need to hire one.
Have any tips I didn't mention? Feel free to share them in the comments.
*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.