Sunday, December 14, 2008

Revising Your Manuscript

I just read an interesting article by Laura Backes, the editor of Childrens Book Insider. Her premise was the importance of revising a manuscript before submitting it. We all know how important it is to send our best work out, but do we always follow that advice? I know I've been guilty more than once of sending off an article without that final glance through. It's easy enough to get caught with a deadline. How many of you would say you work better under pressure? I know I'm not at my best when I'm in a time crunch. I would rather have the time to go over the story one last time.

If you plan your time wisely, you can be sure to look for errors. Ms. Backes suggests putting the manuscript away for awhile. This makes a lot of sense. Errors which don't show up at the first reading are much more obvious after the manuscript sits for a few days. Plan your work load so you have this time to let the story or article stew.

When you take your manuscript out, read it through carefully, looking for errors the computer won't recognize. By now, most of us know that your spell checker won't catch word substitutions such as "their" for "there." If you use the wrong word, but spell it correctly, it's not going to jump out at you. Read each line carefully, highlight anything which glares at you. Go back and correct it after you've completed reading.

Most of us will write without editing as we go. This is much more productive and keeps the thought process moving forward. If we stop to correct each line or word, it slows us down and we lose that important train of thought. Write your piece until it's finished or until you need a break. Don't read what you've already written, unless you need a reminder for where you left off. Once you've completed your work, then put your editor's cap on. Look for unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. Use active not passive language. Make sure your grammar and spelling are correct.

What about details? Check those when you are revising and editing. Do your characters remain consistent. Is their hair always the same color? What about eye color or facial expressions? Does your action move ahead without being bogged down by excessive back story or description? Cut, revise and tighten.

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  1. When I was working as an IBM systems programmer, I found I had to read through my scripts *twice* without finding any errors before I could declare them good to go. Now that I'm writing prose and poetry, I've found this is a good plan here, too.

  2. Good point, Maggie. A good review takes at least twice. Thanks for sharing.