This week I’ve had the … let’s say pleasure, of revising not one but two manuscripts to submit to the QWC/Hachette Manuscript Development Program.
Here’s a few things I’ve learnt, or re-learnt, as a result:
1. Revision is an ongoing process. Even when you think you’ve nailed it, that the manuscript is as close to perfect as you can humanly get it, there will still be typos, missing words, repetitions and phrases that make you turn scarlett and want to hide beneath your desk. That is until you revise it again and really get it perfect.
2. Feedback from writing buddies or trusted readers is crucial. No matter how many times you read your manuscript you will miss things. You need another pair of eyes to pick up those glaring errors. You also need the willingness to listen and a writer’s skin thick enough to accept there is room for improvement.
3. There’s a difference between your internal editor and your internal critic. The internal editor is the voice in your head that tells you to kill your darlings in the name of quality. The internal critic is the voice that says ” this is crap, what makes you think you’re ever going to be a published writer”. Listen to the editor. Silence the critic.
4. Work to an external deadline. Self imposed deadlines never truly work for me. I always know they’re arbitrary and therefore flexible. Find and enter competitions that will provide REAL deadlines.
5. Warn your loved ones you are on a mission. Explain how long it will take, that you need to be left alone for x number of hours a day and do not be swayed. That manuscript won’t revise itself. You need to have your butt in the seat.
6. Until you reach your deadline, writing comes first and everything else comes last. Washing, ironing, shopping, phone calls, lunch with friends, Oprah re-runs, anything else that drags you from your goal has to be put on the back burner. The only exception is exercise – after or in between revision sessions. And you might want to squeeze in eating and sleeping.
7. Your writing improves with each revision. This version of your manuscript might not be the one that cracks it for you but it will be better then the last version and is a stepping stone to achieving the holy grail of publication.
8. When you’ve done as much as you can do this time around, put the pages in the envelope, or press the send button, and reward yourself. You’ve worked hard, you’ve made your deadline, you’ve improved your writing. I like to relax in the bath with a good book and a glass of wine.
How do you find the revision process?