By Lexie Smith
In today’s publishing climate it’s more important than ever to polish your writing as much as possible if you want to sell it. That means you must revise your work. To help with this part of your writing life, April’s Third Thursday program was That Revision Thing: Tips for Editing Your Manuscript.
The illustrious panel of authors included Carol Dawson, Katherine Durahm Oldmixon, Varian Johnson and Margo Rabb. The consensus of their personal experiences with the revision process was that your for-publication work should be revised many times by yourself and others.
The obvious first editor of your work is you. Our guests had these tips on self-editing:
- Start with a large first draft. Each author shared stories of whittling down hefty drafts through many revisions. (Need drafting help? See last Third Thursday’s recap.)
- Step away from your work for a period of time. Depending on the type of piece, the time ranges from a few hours to several months.
- With poetry, know when to stop, like a painter.
- Don’t worry if you don’t like to revise. Carol used to hate it, but now she enjoys it.
- Also from Carol: become “knife-minded” and ruthless about cutting your work.
- Speaking of knives, murder your little darlings, per Stephen King.
- Read your work out loud.
- Do an edit looking for specific things to cut or change: adverbs, active vs. passive verbs, or too many I’s are examples.
- Read craft books about writing. (Recommendations below.)
- Take writing classes. (Remember, WLT offers classes and workshops.)
- Expect to be discouraged at times. It’s part of the process.
- Figure out what works for you. Learn from other writers, but ultimately it’s your process.
After you’ve edited your work, find other people to offer feedback before submitting it to an agent or publisher’s representative. Whether you choose individuals, groups or a combination of the two, these pointers from the panel apply:
- Possible sources of feedback: friends, critique groups, or freelance editors.
- Know the people or group. What are their biases? Reading interests? Experience as writers?
- Seek people brave enough to be honest, able to give difficult feedback.
- Look for non-writers to give feedback.
- Know when you are ready to share work. OK to keep it to yourself.
- Be wise about who and when you share your work with. Sharing at the wrong time with the wrong people can make you want to abandon your project.
- Recognize the value of feedback from people with different tastes or writing approaches.
- Thick skin and a backbone help, especially in regard to the last tip.
- Tell them what kind of feedback you’re looking for: grammar, structure, or simply cheerleading where they only point out the good parts.
Remember, revising is writing.
Make plans to attend May’s Third Thursday program, The Big Windup: Prepping Your Pitch, Proposal, and Synopsis and How to Decide Between Traditional & Non-traditional Publishing
Resources recommended or mentioned:
- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
- Do the Work by Stephen Pressfield (Recommended by audience member. Currently a free e-book on Amazon. Free Kindle app for various devices.)
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King
- Writers’ League Genre groups (In development. Contact the WLT for info.)
Lexie Smith is a WLT member who enjoys connecting people with information throughLexicalLight.com, BloggingForWriters.com and 64mascots.com. A University of Texas graduate, she taught middle school English and, until recently, homeschooled her children. She lives in Round Rock with her husband, five kids and two rescued Boxers.